Legend of Kyrandia: Hand of Fate

Hand of Fate is Westwood's new third person adventure game which just happens to be the sequel to Legend of Kyrandia.  In it, Zanthia, youngest of the Royal Mystics of Kyrandia, must undertake - what else? - a quest.  This time, it's to prevent the land of Kyrandia from disappearing.  Her travels take her to a variety of exotic locales.  From her home in the swamp, she makes her way to the city of Morningmist, the island of Volcania, the Center of the World and the control room of the Wheels of Fate.

Along the way, she'll meet a few people willing to help her.  More often than not, she'll have to do someone a favor, or trick them, before they'll do anything for her.  And, of course, some people are more than willing to get in her way . . . 

Of course, she also has her magic to aid her.  At the beginning, she's hindered by the fact that someone has stolen all of her equipment.  But she quickly rectifies this and begins brewing potions.  In fact, many of the game's puzzles can only be solved by using the right potion.  Collecting potion components - and often, figuring out just what can be used as a component - is a major element of gameplay.  

While the cartoon-like graphics aren't cutting edge, they are easily up to industry standards.  Images range from the bright and colorful streets of Morningmist to the effectively dingy and monochromatic island of Volcania, reminiscent of Out of This World in the atmosphere it evokes.  Some of the special graphic effects, such as Zanthia fading into the mists on Volcania, are especially well done.  

Character animation is also worth mentioning.  Zanthia has a range of standard motions and poses used throughout the game.  If left alone, she will eventually get bored and stretch, brush off her skirt, or do something similar.  In response to specific actions (such as when she tries to dive down an airshaft), unique, and often very funny, animations are used.

The music is subdued, and quickly fades into background noise.  The sound effects, however, are fantastic - right down to Zanthia's digitized giggles and grunts of exertion.  Music and sound effect volume can be set using sliders from an options panel, and not once did I experience a problem with the sound.  This was impressive, as sound is often the culprit behind game crashes.

Character dialog is well-written and funny.  The humor is quite twisted - Monkey Island fans should love it!  If anyone has a desire to send gifts to the designers at Westwood Studios, send them T-shirts that say "If puns were outlawed, only outlaws would use puns."

One last thing worth noting.  The cauldron had me entranced from the moment I found it.  From the way it first appears in Zanthia's inventory to the special effects when it is "flushed", it is easily the most delightful toy to appear in an adventure game in a long time.  The small animations (a tiny sailboat cruising across its surface, a tentacle groping out from it) add nothing at all to gameplay and everything to atmosphere.  They point to the painstaking attention to detail paid to the design of this game.

All in all, Hand of Fate is one of the most well-rounded and enjoyable games to come down the pike in a while.  It is attractive, sounds good and is playable and fun.  Some of the puzzles are tricky, and as with any linear storyline, it is possible to get stuck, but most gamers should be able to get around the tough spots eventually.  (For those who can't, see either the hints and tips article, or the walkthrough, for the first half of the game, elsewhere on this disc.)