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Legend of Kay

Score: 45%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: DreamCatcher Interactive
Developer: Firehazard Studio
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:

Legend of Kay has a lot of problems, however most can be attributed to one key aspect - it overlooks the little things. Yes, this is usually the problem with every game, but here, the small things really pile up.

When it comes to the technology side of the equation, Legend of Kay is ambitious. The DS will always take it on the chin for its 3D shortcomings, and Kay does a lot with the little it has. Character models look pretty good, particularly Kay, who has a neat Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon thing going on with his jumps (you'll see this animation a lot). Even more impressive is the size of areas - they're pretty big and feature lots of varying geometry.

The problem with big areas, however, is there isn't much in them. There's the occasional coin or enemy, but you're mainly running through a barren wasteland trying to figure out where the navigation arrow is pointing. Much of this can be attributed to one key design decision, the lack of combat.

Audio is, well... audio. I like the Asian beat droning in the background, but it is just sort of there. It doesn't get in the way and compliments the game reasonably well, but at the same time, nothing really stands out as memorable.


Gameplay:

I like what Firehazard Studio set out do with Legend of Kay. The working idea, as far as I can tell, is to present a violence-free game suited for a younger audience. If you're old enough to remember the PS2 version of Kay, you'll remember it was a reasonably well-made platformer with a fun combat system. The DS version follows suit, but removes all of the combat. That's right - despite the kung fu setup there's no actual combat in the game. Instead, Kay is left to either avoid combat, or stomp on enemy heads like a certain Italian plumber.

Again, I like the concept and am all for it, but if you're going to remove a major mechanic from the game, there has to be something to take its place. It is a small thing, but leaves a big hole. A majority of playtime is spent running around collecting coins, trying to find your way to the next area and completing the occasional fetch quest. Okay, ALL of your time is spend repeating those three tasks. It is not that the three are dull tasks; other games have pulled off the three without problems. Yet, with Kay, they're bland and dull.

The thing is, I can't pick out one element and say, "This is the culprit." Instead, it is a bunch of little things. Without combat, there's nothing to fill the gaps between goals. As a result, the space feels bigger and more confusing. Factor in the navigation arrow, and, well you've got one big confusing mess.

Story is told through comic book panels, but like everything else, they drag on for much longer than they should. It takes forever for text to show up, and the game hangs on each panel way too long. There's a way to skip it all, but then you won't know what's going on.


Difficulty:

Legend of Kay may be aiming for a younger audience, but its sights are way off. I can think of three sections very early in the game that will frustrate younger players. Heck, I stopped playing for two days because of one.

It almost seems like some areas are intentionally hard just to balance out the lack of combat difficulty. Areas wouldn't be nearly as frustrating if there was an area map to reference when you got lost. At the very least, the navigation arrow could be tweaked to give a better idea of where you need to go rather than just pointing towards the exit.

You'll jump on a spider every now and again, though it isn't as if they pose a major obstacle in the first place. They slowly scurry towards Kay, offering plenty of time to jump and score a hit. When you can't fight, you need to rely on stealth. Stealth areas are incredibly hard. The camera system doesn't cooperate and there's no indication of what enemies can, and can't, see.


Game Mechanics:

Some of the credit goes to level design. Even with the navigation arrow, it is very easy to get lost in most areas. This problem could have been easily fixed with an overhead map. Instead, an arrow on the screen points in the general direction of where you need to go, leaving you to figure out how you're supposed to get there. The goal may be behind you, but you may need to navigate a maze of caverns that begin in front of you.

Here's where the scope of the visuals really bite Legend of Kay in the tail. There's a lot of complicated level geometry going on, but some of the texture work isn't great. At one point, I spent a good five minutes searching for a cave opening I couldn't see because the cave's interior matched the cavern wall.

The issue extends to the camera as well. The default angle is low enough that its playable, but high enough that you'll miss things. It's nearly impossible to judge, or even see, where enemies are during stealth portions and some level paths are obscured. I can't tell you how long I spent trying to jump a gorge (which the navigation arrow was clearly pointing towards) when the real path was off to the side, just outside camera view.

If anything, Legend of Kay is a great example of just how interrelated game elements are. One small omission snowballs into another and soon there are misfires everywhere. Despite its best efforts and intent, Legend of Kay isn't recommended.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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