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The Legend of Kyrandia: Book 3 - Malcolm's Revenge (DOS)

81
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.0
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5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Oleg Roschin (164813)
Written on  :  Jan 21, 2004
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

Let me tell you my side of the story...

The Good

The 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 hero, you assume the identity of Malcolm, the "bad guy" from the previous games. Everything is upside-down now: the former antagonist turns into an anti-hero, 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. I have the impression it was also supposed to be a parody on RPGs or something like this. In any case, this "lying level" 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.

Speaking of the story, it is certainly nothing dramatic (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), but there are some hilarious characters to meet and wacky scenes to see, especially on the Cat Isle and while visiting the fish queen.

The game also has terrific graphics (for the most part), and even pre-rendered movies! The music sounds pretty modern and "cool", in a humorous contrast to the game's fantasy setting.

The Bad

The first two Kyrandia games were rather simplistic affairs from the gameplay point of view; unfortunately, Malcolm's Revenge is no different. The dumbed-down "smart cursor" interface takes away wealth of interaction and experimentation that have always been important components of adventure game genre.

There is a heavy price to pay for non-linearity and for 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.

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.

The Bottom Line

Above all, Malcolm's Revenge is amusing and original. It is full of mild humor and charm so typical of Westwood, and despite its (equally typical) nonchalant approach to gameplay, it is fun to play and offers a "light", careless experience not quite found in other adventure games of the time. In my opinion this is not only the best Kyrandia game but Westwood's strongest adventure offering overall, surpassing the more popular Blade Runner in charisma and playability.