I didn't think I would manage it, but we hit our goal of seven games covered by May Maturity this year. That means I can follow through with an earlier threat to play more Kyrandia. As was relayed to me by those in the know, the first game is sort of a dry run for the far better sequels, and I sort of begrudgingly pushed my way through it (kind of an over-exaggeration, since I enjoyed it well enough) to reach Books Two and Three. I'm glad to have found a quiet few days before the Summer storm that is June and E3 to return to Kyrandia for another tale, and to see how the series has evolved since the first outing with Brandon the Weenie Mage (and King, I guess). That's why today, for our May Maturity finale, we're taking a look at the second Kyrandia game:
The Legend of Kyrandia: Hand of Fate.
During my time spent with
The Legend of Kyrandia (Book One), which you can read about here (Intro) and here (Outro), I highlighted a lot of the game's unique ideas and similarly unique problems. Westwood weren't all that familiar with developing King's Quest-style graphic adventure games - though clearly familiar enough with the material - and it seemed they were determined to leave their own mark on the genre with some off-beat design decisions. As well as wanting to try the sequels for their better storytelling, puzzles and jokes, I also wanted to see if they fixed any of the glaring issues I identified last time, or at least mitigated them to some degree. Well, we'll see very soon whether they did or did not improve the game mechanics in any meaningful way.
Right now, in fact:
Welcome to Hand of Fate! Take Out Your Decks, Everyone For a while, the Kyrandia series wasn't sure what to do with its naming scheme. It settled on the "The Legend of Kyrandia: Book [whatever]" format eventually, but for a while it went by "Fiends & Fables" (the eventual subtitle of the first game). The names on the box were often different than their in-game start menu names. What I'm saying is, maybe some elements of this series were a little muddled? Set some time after the first game, the Mystics (a loose coalition of Kyrandia's strongest magic-users) are working together to figure out why the world of Kyrandia is suddenly vanishing piece by piece. You can see all the Mystics from the previous game show up in the intro here, but I have no idea how many will pop up in-game. Besides one, that is. That one being Zanthia, the Mistress of Alchemy from the swamps who had us running around trying to fix her magic fountain in the last game. She's the designated heroine of this game, though not particularly enthusiastic about it. Fortunately, as one of the all-powerful Mystics, she can simply brew a potion to take her directly to the end of the game: the center of the planet, where we need to recover an "Anchor Stone" to fix this little disappearing problem. Or at least she could if someone hadn't trashed her home. Nope, it wasn't that jerk Faun from the last game what did it, though he's certainly not going to help us any. We're on our own here. Some quick notes about the GUI: Zanthia's rack (phrasing) works the same way the inventory bars did in the last game, with the player dragging objects from the active window to the bottom if they want to take them along. Currently, that and the Options menu is all we have access to. In a nice little subversion that ably demonstrates that Zanthia's not one for messing around, she'll tie the tongue of the big frog beastie outside her hut if it tries to eat her. Brandon, of course, got swallowed whole. Because he sucks. It's not quite as apparent in static form, but the tree at the top of the screen is vanishing before our very eyes. This is a recurring happenstance whenever we reach new areas, and highlights the immediacy of our quest. I say that, but I fully intend to get stuck wandering around for hours on end. Not deliberately, mind. Some short distance away, Zanthia finds her alchemy notebook in a tree stump. We only have six recipes here because some mystery jerk tore out the rest of the book's pages, but I suspect we're going to end up having to brew most of them at some point or another. Maybe not this guy's lunch, though. Who'd want to drink a sandwich? I suspect the writers gave the flowers in this game embarrassing names so the voice actor would have to say them out loud. They get even dumber. We need to cross the lake to the next area of the game, since warping there with a potion is no longer an option. Unfortunately, the burly ferryman needs gold before he'll budge. We don't have any of that, but we are alchemists, so let's see what we can do. We also bump into Marko and his giant gloved friend. I didn't mention these two from the intro because... I absolutely have no idea what the deal is with them. I don't remember if Marko was someone we met in the previous game (there weren't that many NPCs, so I suspect not?) and I'm certain I didn't bump into Master Hand back there. I think they're meant to either be the comic relief or the villains or both (or one of each, perhaps) but for now I'm going to ignore what's happening here and hope this game doesn't have a giant gloved hand for an antagonist. What is this, Yellow Submarine? This is such an obvious puzzle that I'm just going to quietly back away until I get a hint as to what I'm meant to accomplish here. If anyone was wondering, yes, Zanthia can also be killed. You have to poke at some dangerous looking things to make a death scene happen, like agitating this skeletal arm in the quicksand, but happen they do and you're forced to reload a save afterwards (the game auto-saves though, so no big whoop if you forget). While I'm on the subject of discussing this game's changes though, it has managed to greatly reduce the amount of real estate I have to travel. That's not to say there aren't any pointless screens, but at least they're not getting recycled out the wazoo. Just straight up sassing this alligator. That's my girl. (Yes, it will eat you, but only if you push your luck.) In another tree stump we find Zanthia's "travel cauldron", finally allowing her to brew potions. It's "too small" to cast any big game-breaking potions though. Funny, that. Anyway, you can see both of them at the bottom of the screen, finally completing our GUI. More exploration. The hot springs are one of the better looking areas I've seen so far. Not sure when I'd need a sulphur rock, but it's worth taking everything. Remember how I only had ten spaces to carry items in the last game? Well, now I have a whole twenty! I'm spoiled for room now. These fireberries, I'd later find out, serve no purpose whatsoever. They're just here to give me heart palpitations. I really didn't like Kyrandia 1's cave maze sequence... Herb's the owner of the shack in the above picture, who true to his name collects a lot of "herbs" and grows these "herbs" in his overpopulated shack with fellow fans of the "green", which is of course a frog's favorite color. Anyway, I take one of his flasks and that cute little stool in the corner. Heh, with the all frogs around it must be a "toadsto... waaaait a second. Right, should've figured. There's a recipe in here that will help us get past an angry rat in the nearby caves. We'll need some of these ingredients though, and if the toadstool is any indication there'll be some wordplay to be done. Bring it on. Never met a problem I couldn't pun my way out of. "Lizard tears"? Well, obviously we're looking for crocodile tears. We need an onion for the potion, but the second one can be fed to Tick-Tock here for some delicious salty lacrimation. We also bump into Marko again. He's just hanging out. I don't think there's anything we can do, but I'm not really inclined to help either. Zanthia ain't got time for your weaksauce antics. Anyway, we find the rest of the ingredients (a "windy woof" is some gnarled bark we found and "smell of eggs" is that sulphur rock) and the hot water we need to finish the potion can be found up here, with the rest of the hot water. Voila! A swamp snake potion. I send Redwall on his way with a vulgar display of our power, and suddenly the rest of the cave is ours to explore. Did it get all Secret of Monkey Island in here or is it just me? The skull's not spilling any of its secrets, but its teeth do light up in seven different colors. Say... Figured I'd be back here eventually. The goal here is to follow the fireflies in a game of Simon, though it's oddly finnicky. You can't start until you press the first firefly a certain number of times. With the right order found, it's time to go back and... ...that's a bingo! Just need to use that skeleton key I got from the quicksand arm earlier... ...And we have an "alchemist's magnet" and a block of cheese. Great. We have a means of changing lead into gold now, but we still need some lead. Couldn't have just put gold in the pirate's treasure chest, huh? Something else I discovered: Zanthia refuses to move ahead if you've left a vital puzzle item on the screen. Presumably this means that screens wipe their inventories after you move on, which suggests that this game is actually less sophisticated than the last one. Or they just had to rebuild a lot of it from scratch and forgot to put the "leave objects wherever" function back in. These two rude fishermen haven't played a part so far, but the moldy cheese seems to have helped them catch a bite and they quickly row off before I can grab that metallic anchor from them. Jerks. Ah, well, they didn't get too far. After all the effort this game put me through to get this golden anchor, it'd better be worth enough to the ferryman to pay for my passage. What the flying f- Great, so not only does Figment here destroy the only means forward, but he also won't fly us over unless we find all the letters he dropped across the swamp. Time for a scavenger hunt. Kinda figures the hand has one of them. Yoink! (I spared you from the rest. They're all in fairly obvious places.) We can also read the letters if we go to the hot springs, because of the steam. This one is a callback to the first game, and that zombified carpenter I kinda didn't bother to cure. Meanwhile, this... is a shout out for an entirely different Westwood Studios property. All in good time, Lands of Lore. All in good time. The dragon's happy he doesn't have any mail missing and I'm happy that I'm finally done with this area. Onward! Sure, why not. It's not like I worked hard to get it or anything. Sheesh. A tumble later, and... uh-oh, am I going to have to age gate this blog? Nope. New area, new change of dress. Zanthia still has some tricks up her sleeve, including new sleeves. Well, isn't that unusual. (For real, I honestly prefer when adventure games do this. Cuts down on the trial and error that comes with enormous inventories and is reassuring because it means I didn't leave anything important behind. Even the alchemy wand is gone.) Since we're in a new part of the game, it might be time to call this... wait, something's happening. It's one of those "Meanwhile" cutscenes! Turns out the Hand was responsible for trashing Zanthia's hovel. What could that five-fingered fiend be planning...?
So that's The Legend of Kyrandia Book Two so far. It is, in many respects, a lot like the first: we have a potion-brewing system instead of the last game's magical spell gems, and there's more inventory space and fewer pointless filler screens, but much of the core is still here. There's still no way to skip walking from one side of the screen to the other, which makes backtracking a little more annoying than it needs to be, but at least the game has a walking speed toggle (I believe the last one did too). We still have inventory items that can be accidentally destroyed, which then respawn somewhere in the vicinity, but now we have more space to hold onto them. And yeah, I think there's a marked improvement in the level of comedy writing here too. Zanthia's way more fun as a protagonist than she was as a woefully unhelpful NPC, and is not so much feisty because she's a typical 1990s heroine but because she has the swagger of an extremely powerful mage who just happens to be a smidge declawed for the time being.
Ultimately, while they haven't fixed everything that was wrong with the first game, Kyrandia 2's far more entertaining in part due to what it does address and improve. It is what a good sequel should be, at least so far, and if I was invested enough in the series to beat the first game I sure as sapphires am ready to see this one through to its end as well. The big question is:
Can I reach the conclusion of this game before May ends tomorrow night?
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