When I was a kid, I used to look forward to my weekends because my old man would bring his work PC home for me to play on. It was loaded with hundreds of games, including many from my beloved adventure genre.
This continued as adventure games evolved into the point-and-click mouse-driven ones we know today. One weekend, I discovered a new one on my old man’s PC. It was not one of the Sierra or LucasArts ones I knew, but an entirely new fantasy comedy adventure by Westwood Studios called The Legend of Kyrandia: Book Two: The Hand of Fate. It had a few notable features that grabbed me.
The first was the impressive, partially-animated intro telling how the land of Kyrandia was disappearing and a young female mystic named Zanthia was chosen to embark on a quest to stop it. Zanthia was a cute, confident and sarcastic heroine who ended up in some truly bizarre situations over the course of her journey. The characters were likeable and the puzzles were challenging without being vague or obtuse. I managed to finish the game on my own in a time when there was no Internet to look up walkthroughs.
The game also had a unique interface in which a single context-sensitive cursor controlled everything. Clicking on a character made Zanthia talk to them. Clicking on the ground made her walk there. Clicking on an item made her pick it up. It sounds obvious, because after all most games today work in that kind of context-sensitive way – but back then, it was new. Adventure games usually required players to click on different icons to make the character walk, talk, pick up items, interact with background objects and so on – but The Hand of Fate left the player free to try interacting with things and combining items without having to worry about how they would do it.
By reading through the gaming magazines I perused at CNAs and the armfuls I bought at the kilo shop, I learned that The Hand of Fate was part of a trilogy, but I never even saw the other two – until now, that is. Thanks to what is fast becoming my favourite website, GOG.com, I now have the entire trilogy – and the full CD, speech-enabled versions at that. Interestingly, these ones are emulated using ScummVM rather than GOG.com’s usual DOSBox.
The Legend of Kyrandia: Book One tells of how Brandon, an inept wizard’s apprentice, has to find a mystical amulet and learn the art of magic to defeat Malcolm, the court jester, who has murdered the king and queen. In Legend of Kyrandia: Book Three: Malcolm’s Revenge, players actually play as the villain from the first game, who plans to take revenge on his enemies and clear his name of the murders he claims he didn’t commit.
All three games use the same simple control scheme, although in Book Three, the developers used horrible, first-generation pre-rendered CG for the cinematics instead of the well-drawn, partially-animated artwork from before – and it looks like shit. Still, at least the in-game art is still good. Check them out if you’re in the mood for a chuckle and a think.