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The Hand of Fate

My younger son is pretty good with the mouse already, and he is getting better and better at reading, so I have been thinking that there are a lot of good old games that we could play together, and he could drive.

An obvious genre is point & click adventures –or as we called it back in the day graphical adventures–, as long as the interface is not too cumbersome (no SCUMM for now, the verbs are a bit too complicated for a 5 year old), and ideally it should have voices so I don’t have to read all the texts. So there are a few years of point & click games when they where still popular and the CD-ROM as media was perfect to add content like digitised voices (and some video, often looking awfully bad today).

My wife is playing Shadowrun Returns –the tactical RPG based on the table-top game–, and discussing how many games I have in my GoG library that I have never played, and that most of them were given for free at some point; we checked if there was any new free game.

Although we didn’t find any that I didn’t have already, we saw that the The Legend of Kyrandia games were less than £2 (each). I never played them back in the day, but I remember that they were big in the magazines of the time, with full walk-through of both. The graphics are good, of the time and style of Lands of Lore –in fact, the evil Scotia is mentioned in The Hand of Fate as a joke–, and after a quick search I found that the interface wasn’t too complicated and it had fully digitised voices. So we decided to give it a go.

In the game

The game looks fantastic in glorious VGA

We have been playing The Hand of Fate –which is the second on the series– for a few days, and we completed it yesterday. My son was thrilled, even if we needed a guide for a lot of the puzzles. This game is a showcase of most of the problems of the genre, and then some. But if you have some help when things get extra-obtuse, you can enjoy the cute graphics, the excellent synth-FM music and the nonsensical story.

The game has good humour –although one joke has aged so-so–, and the voice of Zanthia gives a great personality to the main character –even if sometimes, to show the urgency of the situation, it will interrupt the action to tell us that we should hurry up–.

The potions we need to make during the game are a good excuse for puzzles, and I liked the mechanic: find a page of your potions book, find some weird ingredients, make and use the potion to remove a blocker and advance on the story.

And then there is the story, which is not great. It doesn’t matter, because the important is the puzzles, but you spent two thirds of the game to get to a location to basically realise that it was all a waste of time. Then a character exposes the actual plot, and we do the last third of the game –and it didn’t surprise us who the baddie was–.

In the game

Zanthia changes clothes often, and that's part of the charm

You definitely need guide to complete the game, and I guess it makes a lot of sense now that the magazines published those in-depth walk-through back in the day. Even with the guide, at one point we got to an unwinnable state, because we flushed our cauldron too soon and then we were short of one skeptic potion to complete the game (fortunately we had a recent save and we only lost 30 minutes of progress). And there is a “Towers of Hanoi” puzzle that it doesn’t matter if you have a guide, to not mention the final scene where we died around 20 times until we got it right –because you can die in this game, even if is more a joke than an actual mechanic–.

So I would say it is a hard game, but we had fun, and I can think of worse introductions to the genre. Besides, it is the first game we complete!

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