Review: The Legend of Kyrandia: Book One (PC/Mac)

Posted: February 7, 2011 in PC, Retro
Tags: , , , ,

Westwood Studios is best known for being innovators in the real-time strategy field with Dune II and the popular Command & Conquer series. However, they produced a wide variety of games during the 1990s, including RPGs (the Lands of Lore series), a PC version of the classic board game Monopoly, and the Legend of Kyrandia series of graphic adventures.

The first game in a series of three, The Legend of Kyrandia: Book One is an adventure game very much in the mold of LucasArts’ and Sierra’s similar games of the time, featuring an easy-to-use point and click interface of the former and the occasional tooth-grinding difficulty of the latter. So, if you’re not familiar with the King’s Quest series, I recommend this: save often, and keep multiple files. Moving on.

The story begins as the King and Queen of Kyrandia have been murdered by their court jester Malcolm. You control Brandon, the heir to the throne, as he discovers his origins and learns that Malcolm has taken the Kyragem, which is Kyrandia’s MacGuffin of power. And thus, young Brandon sets off to track down Malcolm and reclaim the gem.

Not the storyline, but the game itself…yes.

If you’ve played an early ’90s adventure game, chances are you won’t have any trouble getting into Kyrandia. The inventory system and feel of the game are pretty in-line with Day of the Tentacle and Fate of Atlantis. The game’s design isn’t terribly original, but the interface works well, and that’s what counts. The presentation of the game is nice, also typical of its time and genre, with clean and well-detailed graphics that fit the feel perfectly. Also, they’re colorful, with lots of greenery and sparkling water (yes, Bethesda, you could learn something). The setting seems like pretty standard fantasy fare – Kyrandia could easily be neighboring Daventry or Greyhawk – but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, giving it a lighthearted feel that is very much appreciated as our modern fantasy games seem to all be either super-serious or incredibly grimdark.

With the exception of Uncharted, I haven’t seen this much green in YEARS.

The puzzles are, for the most part, not too difficult to figure out, but there are a few that will make you pull your hair out. Without giving too much away: Fireberry bushes. MY GOD. Fireberry bushes are probably the best impetus to develop lanterns in any fantasy realm ever. This one was the most torturous to me when I was younger, and even as an adult it’s pretty frustrating.

The music is without a doubt the best and most memorable part of the game, by Westwood’s prodigious composer Frank Klepacki. It has an interesting style to it – definitely rooted in the sound we expect from a PC game with a fantasy setting, but with moody percussion and piano mixed in (to say nothing of MIDI synths that make me get all nostalgic). In addition, the CD-ROM version’s voice-overs are pretty good. Fun fact: Brandon is voiced by none other than Joe Kucan, better known as the nefarious Kane from the Command & Conquer series.

This one has a very high nostalgia factor for me personally, being my first adventure game and one of the first games I finished on my own – taking about two months of patience. After playing other adventure games of the time (and its two sequels), I can say that it’s a pretty good game, if not as instant a classic as my beloved LucasArts games. It’s still one of the better examples of the genre, and if you like graphic adventures and have played the Sierra and LucasArts titles to death, it’s worth hunting down a copy of Kyrandia.

Share Your Thoughts: Kyrandia can be run in either the ScummVM environment or DOSbox on modern systems.

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