The Legend of Kyrandia CD. (computer game from Virgin Games) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
There's something special about The Legend of Kyrandia, created by Westwood Studios, developer of the role-playing classic, Eye of the Beholder. It could be the gorgeous hand-painted graphics, the intuitive interface, or the digitized speech of this all-taking CD version. Perhaps it's simply the nature of the game--with its intriguing quest pitting good against evil, its unusually colorful characters, and its magic, humor, and subtle ecological slant. More than likely, what's special is how all these qualities combine to make this one of the year's most instantly accessible adventures.
Published in 1992, the disk-based version generated much prerelease hype but little fanfare upon its final unveiling. The conversion to CD format will hopefully ignite renewed interest in this superb beginner's-level fantasy game. Kudos to sound engineer Toto Zara and voice director Jennifer Sward for some of the genre's cleanest and most expressive speech to date. As spoken by more than a dozen professional actors, the game's prose truly seems to come alive. Westwood Studios' incredibly smooth production surpasses the excellent work of multimedia pioneers LucasArts and Sierra--high praise indeed.
The story takes place in the enchanted world of Kyrandia, where the inhabitants once enjoyed a special kinship with the Natural Kingdom. The result of this covenant was the Kyragem, an enormous gem of fantastic magical powers. As necromancy spread across the once-simple kingdom, the Order of Royal Mystics was formed to help control the gem's magical influences. Through the ravages of war and the prosperity of peace, the Kyragem proved a constant source of strength and good--until now.
Malcolm, court jester to King William the Generous, was apparently driven mad by greed and jealousy. To possess the Kyragem and control the land, he ruthlessly murdered the king and queen. Kallak, chief of the mystics and father of the fallen queen, imprisoned Malcolm in Castle Kyrandia. Fearing Malcolm's terrible rage, Kallak escaped to the countryside with his grandson, Brandon, sole heir to the throne. That was 18 years ago. Having broken his bonds, Malcolm has seized control of the Kyragem and now seeks revenge on the entire realm of Kyrandia. Only you, as Brandon, can retrieve the powerful gem, defeat Malcolm, and restore peace to the kingdom.
Your quest unfolds in five chapters that take you to every corner of the richly landscaped island of Kyrandia. Among dozens of miniquests, riddles, and visual puzzles, you must find four stones to restore the magic Amulete, your only hope against Malcolm's awesome evil powers. Despite this ominous premise--typical of the premises of most fantasy adventures--the designers evoke an uncommonly light and enjoyable atmosphere, with generopus displays of both humor and pathos. Among the quirky characters you'll meet are Herman, a cave-dwelling handyman; Darm, an absent-minided wizard, and his bickering, fire-breathing dragon, Brandywine; and Treeface, spokesman for the ailing Natural Kingdom.
The game is free-form in appearance only; its structure is strictly linear. Although the direction of the story is permanently set, the speed at which it flows is determined by your ability to solve a long series of interactive puzzles. Few cannot be solved, even by the greenest adventures. You'll be edged along by unmistakable visual or spoken clues. The streamlined point-and-click interface offers only the essential functions--you can pick up, drop, use, talk to, and look at objects. A backpack allows you to carry up to ten items in your inventory. Game control options include three walking speeds, speech and text toggles, and descriptive game saves. Although the speech is always in English, text can be in English, French, or German. And the context-sensitive background music is outstanding; like the clear, unbroken speech, the CD's music and sound effects are of absolutely exceptional quality.
What's so special about The Legend of Kyrandia? Everything--it's a beautifully realized multimedia adventure game that you simply won't wnat to end.