Have You Played… Kyrandia 2: Hand Of Fate?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Goodness, Hand Of Fate [GOG Link] is a beautiful game. Most 90s developers hired artists, but I’m pretty sure Westwood only recruited wizards. Still, we all know that looks can be deceiving…

Not here though! Hand of Fate is one of the most underrated classic adventures of the time, not helped by being sandwiched between the ‘alright I guess’ Legend of Kyrandia (officially, the series was called “Fables and Fiends”, but nobody called it that any more than they’d later call No-One Lives Forever “The Operative”) and the festering third game, Malcolm’s Revenge. It’s a personal favourite outside the usual Sierra/Lucasarts line-up for a few reasons, including having a cool main character in Zanthia, a wizard sent to save the world from disappearing piece by piece, and one of its most imaginative villains. Yes, it’s a hand. Specifically, the left hand of an evil wizard currently passing itself off as an assistant, because it doesn’t have the cheeks to be a butler.

Most of the puzzles are based on alchemy, and making potions to solve problems. A cool gimmick, acting as a fun structure for a whole set of wacky islands full of weird characters. Overall though, it’s the art that stands out the most – the details, the backgrounds, and most notably, the fact that Zanthia changes outfit constantly. I’m genuinely not sure if this was a reward or a punishment for the artists, though it’s hard not to imagine at least a few conversations going like this:

“Okay, so in the Volcanic world, we’re giving her a nice summer dress.”
“Fine, but at least let me make it symmetrical?”
“Nope! High slit up one leg! Get to it!”

But all that hard work was totally justified. Kyrandia 2 looks great by any pixel art standards, and the fact that it was doing it in regular VGA, with 3D bits and shading on everything… honestly, it just doesn’t feel like it should be possible. It’s worth checking out just for that, though make no mistake, the adventure itself is pretty damn good too. Nice, friendly, comfortable as a warm bath.

At least until you get to the end and find it ends on the ****ing Towers of Hanoi puzzle.

Goddamn you, Westwood. Goddamn you to Hell. Or to be eaten by EA. That works too.

28 Comments

  1. LionsPhil says:

    Not even Towers of Hanoi was enough for them to deserve that fate.

    (And, hey, it wasn’t the very last puzzle.)

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    gritz says:

    Good choice, classic game. (And didn’t rate a mention on the “25 best Adventure games on PC”)

  3. SanguineAngel says:

    Hand of Fate is one of my favourite adventure games! I am so pleased to see it mentioned here as I so rarely see it around town.

  4. Laurentius says:

    I played it and it is good and fun. There are a couple of problems though, game starts very strong but devs run out of steam at some point and there are couple of stages of medicore value both graphically and as far as ideas go. Still 8.5/10 imo.

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    Skabooga says:

    I’ll admit nostalgia may lead to me liking the first Legend of Kyrandia more than I ought to. It had some walkthrough necessary puzzles no doubt, but it also was a damn pretty game, in an understated sort of way. Hand of Fate definitely turned up the spectacle, and the puzzle structure was much better too, but I’ll always lean towards the restrained ways of my first love. But I’m happy that they were both made.

    Malcolm’s Revenge, on the other hand, did not ever need to exist.

    • Risingson says:

      The first game at least had one memorable unforgettable bit: the first time you meet Malcolm, playing with his knives. A genuinely dark and tense moment in a colourful environment.

      And the music too.

  6. thaquoth says:

    There was one good thing about Malcolm’s Revenge, and that was the first “get the fuck outta here” section. There was some ingenious free-form design there. But then all of the rest happened, and… yeah.

    Other than that, yup. Westwood was weirdly inconsistent with their series, but they all had at least one masterpiece. Take Lands of Lore for example: utterly fantastic first game, “what the fuck FMV everything looks terrible what is going on why am I suddenly a giant monster” second game, and “whatever” third game.

    I guess they were just really willing to be inventive and weird, which sometimes ended up being amazing but sometimes just kind of… bad.

  7. Kaeoschassis says:

    Yes, I played this. I played the HELL out of this. It was one of my first point+clicks (before my doctor told me I can’t play them anymore) and is almost certainly still my favourite. Nearly everything about this game is done right. The alchemy thing was a brilliant change from (or at least justification for) the usual inventory puzzles. And yeah, Zanthia was a fantastic character in an honestly great cast.

    • criskywalker says:

      Did your doctor really say you couldn’t play adventure games anymore? Just curious here.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Haha, no. I guess humour based on insincerity can be hard to pick up on over the net.

        I have known myself to take pretty significant breaks for the sake of my blood pressure though. Last one was for about… five or six years, I think.

        • criskywalker says:

          Probably the fact that English is not my first language doesn’t help either haha.

          I haven’t been playing adventures myself, maybe because I don’t have the patience I used to have as a teenager anymore. Looking forward Thimbleweed Park though. Hopefully the magic will be back with it!

          • Risingson says:

            If you want to play adventure games remember doing it the oldschool style: with friends. At the same time. Two people with the same game, or two people advancing and exchanging tips via gtalk or steam chat. Or more than two people. That’s the best way these games work.

  8. tomimt says:

    It’s definetly the best one in the series, but at the same time I wouldn’t really call it a classic, I’d rather call it just an okay game.

    It is still grpahically stunning though, just like the first game is. They really pushed all those pixels to right positions.

    • jrodman says:

      Having played Kyrandia 1 up to the caves recently, I’m a little confused.

      The pixel art is certainly not bad, but given the time of release, I’d seen various other games with markedly better pixel art, and vastly superior animations. Maybe it’s a genre thing? It’s way better than contemporary Sierra efforts.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Come on, those introductory forests are beautiful.

        It helps that the Outside Brandon’s Home theme is so good. I can’t remember if that was still Frank Klepacki. (The Will’O’Wisp theme from using one of your powers inside Serpents’ Grotto is ace, too.)

        • Risingson says:

          Klepacki was the composer, yes. I still don’t know one bit about the music in PC games back then: who “translated” the melodies to different sound cards. I mean, in the case of Dune and KGB I think it was Picq himself the one that did marvels with the Adlib music board (call it opl2, opl3 or whatever you like), but I don’t know if it was Klepacki himself the one that made these MT32 tunes sound so good in a humble FM synthesis soundcard…

          • ansionnach says:

            Would be very interesting to find out (learn how the music was done in each game). I originally played Dune emulating MT-32 on (perhaps) an SBLive card and was very impressed seeing as I was used to FM synth music. I even replayed a lot of games to hear them in MIDI mode. funny things was… that the OPL soundtrack was the one to listen to in Dune. I now spend quite a bit of time comparing the FM, GM and MT-32 soundtracks in various games to see which I prefer. The most recent time I played through Day of the Tentacle, I used the GM soundtrack. Having played it through countless times with FM synth I’m of the firm opinion that FM is better for this game. The synthy instruments really suit the cartoon zaniness of the game. Sam & Max sounds superb in GM, as its jazziness demands proper instrument sounds.

            FM soundtracks are always bankable seeing as they’ll sound exactly as intended. I once had a Yamaha XG midi board, and even though it sounded fantastic, sometimes the instruments would sound a bit off. I found that GM emulation on SBLive with a certain soundfont sounded much better for games like Ultima VIII (which has a very fine soundtrack). Even in Final Fantasy VII, a game designed for XG, I thought that GM using the Chaos soundfont was superior. Sounds better than the PSX music to me.

  9. criskywalker says:

    I loved this game! Much better than the first IMHO.

  10. geldonyetich says:

    I’m positive I beat this game at some point, but was chagrined to discover upon watching a Let’s Play that I had forgotten it nearly utterly.

    I do remember it had a cool potion-brewing spell system, and that it was a glorious reminder of why pixel art did not deserve to be crowded out by 3D and CDROM multimedia fads, but that’s about it.

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    Andy_Panthro says:

    Definitely the best of the trilogy. I liked most of the first game, but Hand of Fate is consistently better in almost every way.

    Only played the demo of Malcolm’s Revenge, it seemed like an interesting idea, what went wrong?

  12. ansionnach says:

    Really liked this game. Other than the annoying towers puzzle near the end there were a couple of deliberate red herring bits here and there that were annoying (being sent on a pointless mega fetch quest in one of the early sections when you can walk right to the next bit if you want). I think there may have been a bit of a red herring in the bit where you wanted the gold tooth as well.

    Other than the lovely graphics and solid adventure the voice acting in the CD version was very good for those early days. Voice acting in adventure games had been quite poor on the Lucas side of the fence until Full Throttle. This one really stood out, especially when it came to Zanthia’s voice, which was great.

    I didn’t much play the other games. Liked the canned laughter and the set-up in the third game (you play as the villain from the first one). Disappointed to hear it’s a bit of a stinker. For some reason its sense of humour had me expecting something in the same silliness zone as Leisure Suit Larry 7.

  13. Risingson says:

    Hand of Fate is the best of the trilogy: not as unfair as the first one (where most of the things were solved by trial and error, as they were based on luck) and not as downhill as the third one, where even the art was awful.

    It is not pixel art what Westwood did here. Once I was writing The Longest Article Ever About Westwood and investigated about the artists: there was one that tragically died during the 90s, and that guy was, I think, the heart of that style that was a bit drawn, a bit computer generated and rendered and a lot retouched. Here, in Lands of Lore and in Eye of the Beholder 2 you can see real beauty, as they were among the most spectacular artists in the PC video game industry (Silmarils were a bit too baroque and blurry, Access lost themselves a little in the photo scans, Sierra and Lucas did mostly scans of drawings…)

    • Risingson says:

      Edit button:

      Rick Parks he was, described by Mobygames as a pixel art genius. Joseph B. Hewitt IV was the other guy involved from the very beginning: I wanted to ask him, but I supposed there was a workflow there where one retouched the work from the other giving that unique colourful look.

      • ansionnach says:

        Interesting. Loved the art in Westwood games like the Hand of Fate, Lands of Lore and Eye of the Beholder. Sad to hear that death was a factor in bringing it to an end.

  14. Gemberkoekje says:

    One of the best adventure games ever; though I might be slightly biased by a strong amount of nostalgia playing the series as a kid (And I disagree that Malcolm’s Revenge was any worse than Zanthia’s Quest For Decent Clothing)

    • Risingson says:

      After you escape the first island it was a complete desaster, cmon. The cats-and-dogs island was overlong, stupid and full of mazes, sudden deaths and everything that should be avoided in an adventure game.

      It was even ugly, graphically. Very very ugly.

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    Bluerps says:

    I’ve played all Kyrandia games back then, but this was the only one I finished. There was a sandwich potion!

    I still remember that the German version had a translation error that made one puzzle unsolvable except with try&error or a walkthrough. One potion had a recipe that called for a toadstool – the problem was that there were no toadstools to be found anywhere. The solution was to steal a stool from a toad and throw that into the pot. This didn’t work in German because toadstool doesn’t translate to anything that is related to toads or stools.

    Despite this error I liked the game a lot.