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SummaryLet me tell you my side of the story...
The GoodThe third installment in the Kyrandia series is decidedly more "edgy" than its two mild predecessors; it is more original, extravagant and funny.
The choice of protagonist is one of the game's best ideas. Instead of controlling a stereotypical goody-two-shoes fantasy dude, you assume the identity of Malcolm, the "bad guy" from the previous games. Everything is upside-down now: the former antagonist turns into an antihero, a little demon with a cigar and sunglasses is your best friend, and the castle of the noble King Brandon is described as "sissy". Attitude is what the series really needed to transcend their timid "me too" status in a world dominated by LucasArts' behemoths, and that's exactly what it got here.
Non-linearity is not a typical thing in adventures, and usually you don't get to choose your character's behavior: you do what the game tells you, without the possibility of making your own choice. Malcolm's Revenge, on the other hand, has both non-linearity and behavior choices. Depending on the "lying" level you chose, you will have different ways of interacting with characters. You can adjust your "lying" level like you adjust gamma-correction or sound volume. This feature is more a gimmick than an integral part of gameplay; there is usually only one way of interaction that will bring you further in the game. Non-linearity, on the other side, is really present: there are many ways of solving the same problem. Already the first objective of the game can be attained in six different ways.
The gameplay mechanics are very simple: you just click on whatever you want to interact with. Despite this unfortunate reduction, there is still plenty of stuff to try, varied comments awarded for repeated actions, and other classical adventure goodness that was all but gone in the second half of the decade (including Westwood's own Blade Runner).
A nice realistic touch is the ability to stock many items of the same kind or throw out items. You can for example solve a little puzzle and catch an eel; but you can get the right ingredients for the solution again and catch another eel, and so on, until you maybe end up with fifteen eels in the inventory. You really don't need so many eels, but it's nice to do stuff in a adventure game that is unrelated to the main story. And how can you not appreciate the possibility of clicking on Malcolm after his prolonged exposure to dogs and picking up a flea as a result?..
There is nothing particularly dramatic in the story - although there is a nice plot twist near the end that explains a lot of things also for those who played the two first games. However, the game has a certain wild, psychedelic vibe that makes it easier to overlook its plot-related inconsistencies and flawed logical thinking. The Cat Isle and the bizarre, almost surreal domain of the Fish King are good examples of the game's general wackiness.
Malcolm's Revenge has (for the most part) pleasant graphics and even pre-rendered movies; smaller portions of those are sometimes integrated into the game's background for nice effects. The music sounds pretty modern and "cool", in a humorous contrast to the game's fantasy setting. Also, having a "laugh track" taken from TV comedy shows to accompany Malcolm's comments contributes to the appropriately silly atmosphere.
The BadThe first two Kyrandia games were rather simple affairs from the gameplay point of view; unfortunately, Malcolm's Revenge is no different. The dumbed-down "smart cursor" interface takes away a lot of interaction and experimentation that have always been important components of the adventure genre. This is only slightly compensated by the game's open-ended problem-solving and the "lying" meter. The latter, in particular, is disappointingly underused; worth trying for a few humorous effects, it is largely a harmless gimmick barely affecting the gameplay.
There is a heavy price to pay for the non-linearity and the flexible inventory management. You'll end up with an inflated inventory full of junk without knowing exactly why you have picked it and what you should do with it now. Since there are so many ways to solve a problem, it is hard to follow one concrete way, and easy to get confused while accumulating an obscene amount of useless inventory items. Some of the puzzles made little to no sense, making me shrug my shoulders and surrender to the game's weird design.
Other than that, there are some very annoying sequences in the game. The jungle on Cat Isle comes to mind. You have to navigate your way through a small maze without knowing the directions. That would have been half of the trouble if the navigation weren't so confusing: every time you leave a screen, you appear on the bottom of the next one, regardless of the direction which you came from. Perhaps an overview map or some in-game hints for directions would have helped.