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.