The Legend of Kyrandia: Book Two – Hand of Fate, Westwood Studios’ sequel to The Legend of Kyrandia: Book One – Fables and Fiends, remains an improved and still enjoyable fantasy point-and-clicker.
The Legend of Kyrandia: Book Two – Hand of Fate (PC)
(USA 1993, developer: Westwood Studios (now defunct), publishers: Virgin Games (now defunct)/Electronic Arts, platforms: PC, Amiga, FM Towns)
The land of Kyrandia disappears one piece at a time, and now young mystic Zanthia has to find a way to journey to the center of the world and break the curse.
Another but different and funnier fantasy story
The plot of the first Kyrandia game was more like the archetypal fairy-tale story, and even if the saving-the-world theme has been used countless times before, there are still a few narrative surprises in store. Despite not offering a plot of epic proportions, having a woman lead that isn’t the typical damsel in distress and also doesn’t come across as too self-indulgent is a nice change. While Zanthia changes her clothes appropriate to each environment more than she does her behavior, her comments are often quite funny, and the way how she (almost) evades every danger and turns out to be a tough but likable lady, makes her much easier to relate to and more memorable than Prince Brandon. This is also true for her sort-of boyfriend/suitor/wannabe hero Marko who always tries to help but finds himself in more perilous or embarrassing situations than anything else. Of course there are a few nods to its predecessor, but it’s not necessary to have played it, as the story stands on its own and the few guest star appearances aren’t too confusing for newcomers.
The fantasy world of Kyrandia is very detailed, although it also makes fun of modern technology, as can be seen with a ski resort. Pirates also enter the equation, but as with almost every character Zanthia meets, these all have their flaws and unique characteristics, e.g. pirates who fight in a poetry slam or an abominable snowman who regards Zanthia in a new costume as his love interest. The characters might not have the same lasting appeal as classic LucasArts games, but together with the various settings, they’re still fun to talk to, making the world of Kyrandia a much more enjoyable place to be in than in the former title, as it’s bigger, livelier, and simply sets itself apart from fantasy clichés.
Mixing things/puzzles up a bit and potions along with it
The world of Kyrandia isn’t just a place to relax, as it’s also a place involving much walking and some dying. Even if the areas to explore are much more contained and easier to distinguish from each other, one still has to do a lot of wandering around due to some fetch quests and backtracking for items some one might have missed because they’re not so easy to spot in the background and some that are needed afterwards for mixing potions. The part of collecting is just as tedious as before, although this time one has a spell book and can mix all ingredients on-the-fly with a portable cauldron. However, a few descriptions are rather vague, so there’s a bit of guess work involved. Thankfully, the inventory space is increased, so picking up items for later use isn’t such a hassle anymore, although there is still a limit to how much one can carry, which becomes a problem, as some spells require many ingredients and one fills up the inventory sooner than one would think.
Still, creating all kinds of spells adds much variety to a game that hasn’t the greatest puzzles, as the quality varies from environment to environment. Sometimes one has clear instructions, e.g. making a sandwich potion for distracting guards, and sometimes there’s a lot of trial and error with illogical solutions, e.g. using a metal hoof for winning a find-the-marble-under-three-covers game. Fetching letters by just wandering around each screen also extends gameplay without having any other purpose, and the less said about a music/color code puzzle that is used multiple times, the better. The more one progresses in the game, the more difficult and also more obscure the puzzles become, which is a shame, because the first part is much more enjoyable, even to newcomers of the genre, as the solutions don’t rely on logic puzzles like a rainbow color and Tower of Hanoi game or dull trial and error.
One should also be prepared that it’s still possible to die. This isn’t as common as in the first Kyrandia, but there are a few scenes in which doing something in the wrong order can become a problem, e.g. not giving a farmer his letter who would then tell Zanthia the ingredients of a mustard recipe he wouldn’t do if one has solved another puzzle before. Luckily there aren’t any dead ends, but saving and being careful about certain actions is recommended. There’s also a very unnecessary time-critical sequence during the finale that is rather annoying as well.
Old-school pixel art and sounds
The game’s graphics offer very colorful backgrounds and characters that are well-drawn, with animations that are also quite good. It again proves how pixel art can stand the test of time if done right. The music is quite catchy at times, too, with enough variations for each environment, even if it’s of a more light-hearted kind, but as the game is also full of quirky humor, it fits rather nicely. The voice acting is again less than perfect, with too many pauses and strange inflections, which is too bad, as the voice actors/actress fit their roles. Repetitive comments are also a bit annoying, especially if one enters the same area multiple times and Zanthia acts as if she’s seen it for the first time.
Twice is the charm of a good game
The Legend of Kyrandia: Book Two – Hand of Fate is a much improved sequel, as it gets rid of some of the original game’s flaws. It has a bigger world to explore with a longer playtime of around 5 hours that isn’t nearly as packed with frustrating elements. The main character is more interesting and some puzzles are quite memorable, while the art and sound direction is still great. However, there are many parts that don’t offer the same kind of puzzle quality, including some unnecessarily difficult logic conundrums, timed sequences and deaths that still hark back to classic adventuring of the more annoying kind. Still as far as humorous fantasy games go, this remains an entertaining title even after all these years.
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