By Fredrik Ekman, from Other Hands #19
In early 1996, the British company SCi released a game with the title Kingdom O' Magic (KOM). The game, an adventure in the modern point-and-click tradition, is nothing less than a parody of Tolkien's Middle-earth. It was designed by Fergus McNeill who became famous during the eighties for games such as Bored of the Rings (influenced by, but not adapted from, the Harvard Lampoon book) and The Boggit.
Probably because of the nondescript title, the game went by Tolkien fandom (myself included, until just recently) without notice, which helps to explain why this review appears now, rather than a year ago.
KOM has been released for three different systems: MS-DOS, Macintosh and Sega Playstation. I have tested the MS-DOS version, which nearly resulted in this review becoming even longer overdue. The reason is that the game conflicted with the sound driver of my Windows 95 installation and I could not even install the thing. After having fought for weeks I finally managed to find the correct driver and make the correct settings. A word of warning to Windows 95 users, thus: Make sure that the game works on your system before you rush out and buy it.
As for the game itself, you have a choice of two different protagonists and three different quests. Neither the protagonists - Thidney the Lizard and Shah-Ron the Girlie - nor the quests are pastiches on The Lord of the Rings. The parody instead rests on the other characters of the game and their surroundings. For instance, we find such immortal legendary figures as The High Steward of Minar Tragedy, Don Elrondo of Rivendull and Queen Galadrag of De-Lorean.
The game world feels quite alive with lots of characters moving around. There are frequent battles between karate elves and ringwraiths, for instance. You can talk with almost all the characters in the game, that is those that do not attack on sight. Conversation is handled by allowing you one of three choices at different points in the conversation. Depending on what choice you make the conversation takes a new direction. This is rather much like the old 80's game Law of the West if anyone remembers that.
Battle is not one of the game's strong sides. While use of magic is OK of sorts, hand to hand combat tends to be kind of silly. You attack someone, you fight for a brief time and then he or she walks away as if nothing had happened, perhaps even approaching you for a chat.
The humor of KOM is very British. I like it a lot, but I suppose this is a question of personal preference. As a matter of fact, the game stands out above all other works I have seen that parody Tolkien's books, including the somewhat infamous Bored of the Rings book.
Technically the game is excellent. Both sounds and animations run very smoothly on my Pentium 166. The animations in particular are a wonder to behold. Some are very beautiful. Just watching the Monty Python-style intro is almost worth the effort (if not the money) of buying and installing the thing.
The actor voices are good, although not excellent. In particular I feel that the voice of the narrator could be a little more... well... narrator-like, if you know what I mean. I would have wanted yet more British accent and yet more command and passion.
On the whole, I warmly recommend Kingdom O' Magic unless you strongly object to parodies of Professor Tolkien's books and unless you do not like British humor (in which case you should reconsider and try it anyway). It is an excellent game in its genre. I have for a fact never played a better humorous point-and-click adventure. I have no idea how feasible it is to obtain the game outside the UK, but at worst, you should be able to order it directly from SCi.
Don't have time to write any more now. Gotta try and find that wedding invitation to Don Elrondo's.
SCi Ltd. Unit 11, Ivory House, Plantation Wharf, Clove Hitch Quay, Battersay, London, SW11 3TN, England
Official KOM web page (well worth a visit by itself): http://www.sci.co.uk/kom/