THE LEGEND OF KYRANDIA 2 / Westwood / PC
Kyrandia 2 does a lot of things better than the previous game did, but the designers clearly were still struggling with the fine balance between challenging the player and annoying the shit out of them. In spite of that, however, the game comes out a winner due to all the things it does right.
This installment stars the mystic Zanthia, minor supporting character towards the end of the previous game, on a quest to find an Anchor Stone to keep the land of Kyrandia from disappearing. By herself, she's already an improvement over Brandon's dopiness, but the game also sports more detailed graphics with much more animation worked into the background, and Frank Klepacki kicks the soundtrack up in this one from "pretty good" to "epic".
You also now have more inventory space, and the surplus of annoying mazes used to pad out the previous game have been cut here and replaced with actual puzzles and gameplay. For the most part, the game is pretty well-designed, and the puzzles seem more fair than those of the previous game. That doesn't mean the game isn't without its tedious aspects, however. Arbitrary trial-and-error in the first game seems to have been replaced here with more incidences of pixel-hunting, and more completely random and logic-defying puzzle solutions that you ultimately end up having to guess at.
The game is so charming, though, that odds are you won't even mind. This game takes the best moments of the previous game, excises the halting attempts at melodrama, and extends that quirky humor to the whole game experience from start to finish. The comedic, silly tone established here serves the series much better.
It also doesn't kill you off randomly (though it is possible to die, deaths are rare and strongly telegraphed beforehand), and it doesn't let you proceed to the next section until it is sure you have all the items you will need, locking off the possibility of a "Sierra Hang-Up". I think the game will not be to everyone's taste - the puzzles are still a little more dense and abstract than they could be, and require a little too much tedious experimentation - but I can't deny that this is well-made, entertaining and a significant improvement on the major flaws of the first installment.
* Gameplay Video