Hello, good evening and welcome to cliched introductions, part one. Are you ready? Then I'll begin. Once upon a time far, far away in RPG land, there existed the kingdom of Kyrandia - a green and pleasant place, full of beautiful trees and flowers, and inhabited by happy people who loved each other and were always doing some good deed or other Creeps.
The ruler of this land was King William, a noble and just man who cared for his people and was respected by them. Kyrandia derived its beauty from the Kyragem, a powerful gemstone whose magical spell held sway over the territory it protected. While the magic of the Kyragem prevailed, no harm could come to Kyrandia.
Right, that's the sickly bit over with, so where did it all go wrong (it had to do really didn't it)? During his reign, William had cause to order the imprisonment of Malcolm, the evil jester, for murdering the parents of Brandon (that's you).
Now I'm sure you've guessed the next bit, but I'll tell you anyway in case - Malcolm has escaped incarceration and stolen the Kyragem, placing Kyrandia under an evil spell whereby the beauty has been replaced by a withered, desolate and barren landscape.
On a visit to his Grandad Kallak, who just happens to live in a tree, Brandon arrives only to find that to his horror Kallak will today be even less interesting company than old men usually are, due largely to the fact that he's turned to stone.This is where the adventure begins, as rather surprisingly the tree in which Kallak lives suddenly begins telling Brandon of the evil that is afoot, and urges him to restore the Kyragem to its rightful place and avenge the death of his parents, by destroying the colourfully dressed doommonger, Malcolm.
Speaking from a personal point of view, if anyone killed my parents broke out of prison and turned my grandad to stone, I'd be pretty annoyed and might want to do something about it. But if a tree suddenly started giving me the lowdown on exactly who the culprit was and how to get revenge, chances are I would check into my local sanitarium, condemning myself indefinitely to a life of eating soft foods and wearing shoes without laces.
But not Brandon. Brandon keeps his cool, listens attentively to the tree and promptly sets off on his dangerous mission. Git.
On leaving the treehouse and venturing into the forest, Malcolm's work is evident - the grass is brown, the trees dead and there's not an animal to been seen anywhere - not even a Leeds United fan.
Now it's a case of collecting whatever objects you need - you can hold up to eleven - and blagging the required information to take you closer to your ultimate confrontation with the Roy Walker of the underworld.
Spell casting is kept to a minimum in Kyrandia - much more important is Brandon's interaction with the characters, animals and inanimate objects he comes across. Something can be gleaned from nearly every screen, be it information from Bryn, the mysterious and strange temple dweller, or the odd teardrop from the pool of sorrow.
The game is divided into four so-called chapters - that's levels to you and me. You begin, as mentioned, in the forest, and continue through on the second chapter, trekking through the labyrinth of caves before winding up among the trees again for the grand finale.
A great deal of thought seems to have gone into every aspect of Kyrandia. Remember in last month's issue I was impressed by the characters in Rome AD92 and the way they not only provided information but came out with some funny off the-wall comments too? Well there's plenty of this kind of thing in Kyrandia, in fact considering Brandon is an orphan with a stone grandad to contend with, he's quite a funny guy.
Not only must you dash about hither and yon all over the show collecting artefacts and gossip, but also endow yourself with the special powers necessary to complete the game. There are four - the power of healing is important quite early on, but as for the out four... well, I promised not to give too much away.
The animation is absolutely superb. Every screen is full to busting with detail and colour, and the way in which the characters move enhances things 100 per cent. I know it's not particularly new, but I'm a big fan of the... um, 'graduating sprite' for want of a better term. You know what I mean, your character is walking away, getting smaller and smaller until he's nothing but a dot in the distance. Don't yawn damnit!
All through writing this I've been struggling with my conscience, but it's no good - I can't lie to you! I don''t know what the sound's like. There, I've said it. It's true, and I'm sorry, but I saw this game at Virgin Mansions in London, and there was no sound on the version that I played.
I did ask the opinion of Richard Branson, who'd just made me a brew and was proceeding to clean my shoes at the time. Said Richard: 'It's better than dropping acid and listening to Cliff Richard records played backwards.' I won't vouch for that (not because I haven't tried it,but because he didn't pay me enougt), but I will say that if the sound is half as good as the vision, then it's damn good indeed.
Developers Westwood Studios are eager to point out that their product contains absolutely no violence. Apparently in the USA, where Kyrandia has been available for some time, it has attracted many women gamers who have been drawn to its 'gentle' element. But blokes, don' be fooled into thinking this is one for woofters - it's as good a game as you're likely to come across this year - and besides, who needs blood and guts when there's this much going on already?
Kyrandia is the first release in the Fables and Fiends series by Westwood. It's only just hit the shops, but I'm already looking forward to the next one.