Oh no! It’s the first in a terrible new series!
It was the nineties. Do you remember the nineties? It was the one before this one. Decade, I mean. Lots of stuff happened. Feargal Sharkey was pickled for the final time. The first nuclear World War ended in kissing.
It was also the decade of the point and click adventure. At one point, all games were point and click. Barney’s Wars. HORSE OF WHORES. Platinum Fred’s Yewtree Town. Ah, it was golden.
But let’s get to one that exists. Hand of Fate.
Hand of Fate, or “HOF” for the shorter, was the second in the Kyrandia series. The magical realm of Kyrandia had already bought us Malcolm, a demented, sociopathic jester with a fondness for knives. He was defeated by a ponce in a wig called Brandon, a simpering tosser, a boring wang in a brown waistcoat.
I didn’t like Brandon, and I always found myself trying to get him killed. Thankfully, there were plenty of ways to do that. The malignancy of Malcolm made him a far more preferable playable character. Of course, he would be, later in the series.
But we’re not talking abut that today. We’re banging on about Hand of Fate.
At the time, Lucasarts had the genre pinned down, with the peerless Monkey Island games, the warped and wonderful Day of the Tentacle, and cartoon anthropomorphised detective duo Sam and Max. They were the kingpins, a solid nugget of genius. A temple of er….point and click. Their mouse was up my arse, and riding it to joyland.
However, the Kyrandia games brought wicked humour to a fantasy kingdom. Like Disney laced with PCP. Probably, I don’t know what that is. It might make your skin fall off like fucking wallpaper, I dunno.
Hand of Fate centers around the story of Zanthia, a sassy blonde wizard and alchemist. Kyrandia is disappearing, and it’s up to her to sort it out. So she picks up a couple of bottles and gets the fuck out. Imagine Breaking Bad with spells. Well, it’s nothing like that. Using a spell book, a big cauldron, and a variety of ingredients, Zanthia’s immediate job is to mix these together to make progress. This is spread out amongst some fairly decent puzzles, which never become too illogical to frustrate, but will also provide some challenge.
The real joy is finding the ingredients. Some of them are obvious, such as finding a bit of hot water, but some are in the form of what I like to call object synonyms, like a prick. For instance, a recipe early in the game calls for “Smell of Egg”, but the object needed turns out to be a sulfur. It’s a simple enough link, but it’s enough to be entertaining, and there are some more complex ones along the way.
The interface is simple and cadent too. The objects picked up are plonked satisfyingly into a scrolling, visual inventory and can be picked up and dropped from the main screen. Object useage is perfectly seamless, to the point where one wonders how the system was not used more frequently. It’s also a beautiful aesthetic, being able to manipulate objects without having to swap screens. There’s a satisfaction in moving a bottle over a stream to fill it, then dumping it into the cauldron.
The story is well worked, and the twists, while in many ways a traditional telling of good and evil have a large element of eccentricity and sublimely nonsensical events. Characters range from the foolish Marko, a lovelorn berk with good intentions, to Volcania’s tour guides, to a suave Yeti. It’s all just the right side of mildy sill and surreal. And of course, there’s Zanthia, whose sarcastic quips are just shy of annoying, and who reacts to her expriences with a charming bouyancy.
For a game released twenty years ago, Hand of Fate is perfectly presented; every single area is at a pleasing contrast from the last. Leafy forests, open fields, deep caverns and even a flying land-mass are painted in bright, primary colours, none of which are ever wasted. Everything has a crispness to it which constantly pleases the eye, and exudes a cheery joy, the likes of which is utterly unique to the era. It’s a game built entirely on rainbow, and never becomes cloying or sickly.
Lastly, the sound is great. Sound effects are appropriately silly and entertaining. The music is atmospheric, clever, and melodic. Again, absolutely nothing seems out of place, and totally beguiles.
Structually perfect, charming, slightly surreal, graceful little adventure. Have a look at it if you want. Now fuck off.