The Legend of Kyrandia, Book One

Developer:  Westwood Studios
Publisher:  Virgin Interactive Entertainment
Year Released:  1993

Review by Gordon Aplin (July, 2004)
I played the Legend of Kyrandia, Book One many, many years ago. It was a DOS-based game that came on floppy disks and had no character voices and I remember thinking at the time that the hero, Brandon, was one the most forgettable lead characters I had thus far encountered. I have recently had the opportunity to play the game again, thanks to a friend who loaned us the enhanced 1993 CD ROM version. Though Brandon is still fairly bland he didn't seem to be as bad as I remembered. Perhaps the addition of voices helped.

The game still installs to DOS but the CD version is also compatible with early versions of Windows. Unfortunately I couldn't get it to run in XP but I didn't waste a lot of time trying so it may still be possible with some tweaking. As it happened I had just downloaded the latest version of DOS Box (a DOS emulator for Win XP) and I was anxious to try it out. Kyrandia was my guinea pig and it worked almost perfectly. Once the game was up and running it was very stable. The only hitch involved a font recognition problem on start-up which meant I had to reinstall the game every time I went back to it. This only took about a minute and didn't affect any of my saves. The exercise also helped me to become familiar with a few basic DOS Box commands so it had an educational component.

Surprisingly, I found that I remembered many of the scenes and even some of the puzzles, which probably smoothed my path through Kyrandia to some extent. I still got stuck though, and I still had to draw a map to get through the maze. It was quite nostalgic to return to the old-style gameplay ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

What's it about?
The story opens with the sour old jester and regicide, Malcolm, having escaped his prison and taking his revenge against the Royal Mystics who imprisoned him 18 years ago for killing King William and Queen Katherine. Malcolm now controls the fabled Kyragem which is the source of all magic in Kyrandia, and the power of the Royal Mystics is failing.

During the introduction we see Brandon's grandfather, Kallak, turned to stone by the evil jester and so it falls to Brandon to save the ailing land.

To the point
Kyrandia is a third-person perspective, mouse-controlled adventure game that is still very playable despite the dated graphics. Simply left click anywhere on the screen and Brandon will walk to that spot. Move the cursor to the edges of the screen and it will change to an arrow to let you know if you can go that way. Click on objects to pick them up.

The game window takes up about three quarters of the screen and your inventory sits beneath it along with your magic amulet (once you find it) and a large 'options' button. The options let you save and load your game, set Brandon's walking speed and enable subtitles to accompany the voices. It's all very easy to use. Each screen represents a new location, or ideally should do but some laziness has crept in and scenes are repeated in several areas which can get confusing. You might be best advised to map each area (there aren't too many) so you can quickly navigate your way around without getting lost. Those of you who have played any text games or the early Sierra Quest games may remember drawing maps of 'rooms' or locations, and Kyrandia is laid out in just the same way.

Mapping the underground maze is essential as you need a light source with you at all times or risk being set upon by the denizens of the dark. Before you've got the area mapped you'll probably expire regularly, and you can also die in other places as you explore and try different things, so saving and restoring is the way to play.

Puzzles and gems
The puzzles are largely inventory-based and as you progress through the game you'll be struck by the amount of gems there are to collect. You don't need them all but they play a crucial role in several puzzles and are also useful for making potions. And here perhaps is the main failing of the puzzles. Sometimes trial and error is the only way to go. For instance, at one stage you will be making coloured potions in Zanthia's cauldron and combining them to make new potions in another location but there is no clue to help you. I searched everywhere for Zanthia's book of potions but it simply isn't there. All you can do is experiment to make them and then drink them and see what happens. Beware, one of them is dangerous.

You can also hit a dead end if you don't have everything you need when you reach a particular location as there is simply no way back. It is strictly a one way journey but you won't know what you need until you have been there at least once so restoring to an earlier save is almost inevitable unless you are lucky in your inventory selection. You can only carry ten inventory items but fortunately you do have unlimited save game slots.

And I should also mention that there is a timed puzzle at the very end.

Still, even with a bit of trial and error and some untimely deaths the puzzles remain entertaining. Fortunately it isn't too difficult to work things out. Your quest will also gain you four gems as you progress and these will eventually appear in your magic amulet. Each of the gems gives you a different magic power and you will need to experiment and decide how best to use them to overcome certain obstacles.

The Legend of Kyrandia is a bright and colourful fairy tale but remember it was first released on floppy disk in 1992 and the graphics looked pretty good back then. The voices are also respectable for the time. The CD version allows you to play the game in German and French as well as English.

This Kyrandia game was the first in the series and was followed by two more substantial offerings in Hand of Fate featuring Zanthia, and Malcolm's Revenge where you play as Malcolm. When I played it originally, though it wasn't the best adventure game around, it kept me entertained playing with gems and potions and working out the puzzles, and so it did this second time around. rating:  

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2004. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
DOS, Win 3.1, VGA card, Mouse, CD ROM drive, Sound card.