After a hard day's flower picking, the last thing that you want to find is that your grandfather has been turned to stone. However, this is the first of many nasty surprises that young Brandon gets when he returns home to his tree-top abode. The next is that his house can talk and has grave news about a mad jester, called Malcolm (?!), who had it in for Grandpa, and for that matter, the rest of Kyrandia!
Apparently, Brandon is the heir to the throne, orphaned at an early age by one of Malcolm's murderous deeds, and the only one with a chance of stopping this new rampage. A quick visit to a voluptuous priestess later and Brandon's off to find a magical amulet. This trinket is the only magic left in the land capable of stopping the evil player in this piece, who looks and acts like a dangerous cross between The Joker and Mr Claypole from Rentaghost.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Despite his wimpy name, Malcolm is a deadly dude. The beautifully animated opening sequence of the game shows him breaking free from his prison (where he's been magically bonded for the last 18 years), and setting off the magical equivalent of one megaton nuclear bombs. Fortunately for Brandon, Malcom doesn't consider him to be a threat yet, so when he appears it's generally just to taunt Brandon about his lack of dress sense. However, this won't last for long. Malcolm may tire of Brandon or begin to take him seriously. When he does, Brandon's going to be up his neck in the brown smelly stuff.
STOP MONKEYING AROUND
Kyrandia is a graphic adventure very much in the Monkey Island 2 vein. Most of the screen is taken up by the action window, below which is a message window, inventory, space for the amulet and the game options icon. You control Brandon using the mouse in a point and click fashion. This interaction is incredibly easy to get used to. All it requires is for you to point to a particular part of the screen, click and Brandon will walk there. If you point to an object that is more than simple background decoration, the pointer shape will change and items can be picked up, information gained, or conversations started. It really is that simple.
This ease, however, belies the usefulness of the system and the depth of gameplay. Games of this character really need this type of control system, as the player will usually have all his work out just figuring out how to solve the various problems, never mind trying to get to grips with complex icons. Another excellent feature is the ability to tweak aspects of the system so that some things can be speeded up, including conversations and even Brandon himself. This gets the game moving at a fair old pace, even though our hero tends to look and move like a Thunderbird puppet on amphetamines.
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
The main screen graphics are a sight to behold, but then what else would you expect from Westwood Studios, the developers that brought you Eye of the Beholder II. Attention to detail seems to have been the watchword for those guys. Kyrandia breathes detail down to the smallest level. Backgrounds are colorful and add so much to the feel; though it is here that one gripe can be leveled - a little more thought could have been put into the woods as the backgrounds do tend to become a bit repetitive.
The main character animations deserve a mention all to themselves. Brandon moves smoothly through his world, and all the non-player characters that he meets, both human or otherwise, have the same quality to their actions.
Magic is a very important aspect of the game and possibly one of the hardest things to visualize. Many developers would have taken the easy option and left it out or had a simple switch from one situation to the next, not Westwood though. Brandon encounters, and has to use, magic at many points in the game, and each time the effects of it are beautifully animated. These even include transformations, when Brandon flawlessly morphs from human to... well, buy the game and solve it yourself!
Legend of Kyrandia STUCK FOR CLUES
The puzzles in Kyrandia aren't too hard to solve. Some can be figured out very quickly indeed, others will take a while longer, but on the whole they are all quite logical. The solutions, when they come, will have you saying 'Of course', as opposed to 'How the hell was I supposed to figure that one out?' (or some polite curse for the programmers).
Conversations play an important part of the puzzle solving, with non-player characters setting tasks and offering all sorts of tips to our intrepid hero. The speed of text on screen can be increased, which is a boon because the conversations are not really interactive with Brandon himself providing the responses, not the player. Also, once started, conversations have to run their course, which can be a tad frustrating if you have already had the same one not five minutes before.
Fortunately, these conversations are laced with humor, especially when Malcolm shows up to taunt Brandon. This touch helps give all the characters a certain amount of depth. For instance, Brandon will encounter a pet dragon later in the game which has given up eating knights due to the fact that it found them all sweat and muscle and too difficult to peel!
The humor can be very sharp at times, as unusually for the latest generations of this genre, the hero can die in a number of intriguing ways. If you compare Kyrandia to the other recent graphic adventure, Curse of Enchantia, you'll see what I mean. In Kyrandia, if a situation looks dangerous and possibly deadly, it usually is. This means that frequent saves are necessary to preserve Brandon's wellbeing. However, if you want to try his luck then I suggest that you do, if nothing else he dies in a variety of amusing ways.
When you think that it's competing against the likes of Monkey Island 2 and the soon-to-be-released Indy IV, Kyrandia certainly has a lot to live up to. The graphics match up fairly well, as does the sound. The puzzles in Monkey Island tend to be slightly harder and therefore add to longevity; Kyrandia can probably be solved in less time. The playing area is immense though and will take some time to explore fully; given Brandon's ability to only carry 10 objects, it is advisable to find locations to stash goodies that will be needed later.
Kyrandia has a lot going for it. It's certainly worth checking out.
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