From 2010 to 2014 Richard Cobbett (opens in new tab) wrote Crapshoot, a column about rolling the dice to bring random obscure games back into the light. This week, the comedy game equivalent of putting 5318008 on a calculator. Then looking up and realising you're on the Titanic. And it's on fire.
Many years ago, a game that decided to combine adventure and RPG into one package. It was exciting. It was dramatic. It was funny. It spawned four sequels, and still lives on in players hearts as a true classic. Sadly, it was called Quest for Glory and this is not that game.
Kingdom O' Magic is similar, except that instead of all that good stuff, imagine a giant comedy catapult being loaded with as much poo as the writers could find, then fired as hard as possible into the nearest wall. It's the kind of game that's guaranteed to get a few laughs, if only because of probability. Welcome to a world where life is cheap, but not as cheap as the jokes.
Kingdom O' Magic is a game I've meant to look at for a while, but always stuck on the backburner—not because it doesn't boast your weekly recommended dosage of odd and obscure, but because it's really hard to write about comedy games. Typing out a bad joke gives no more flavour than repeating a good one out of context, and it's a fundamental law of the universe that the only thing less funny than a bad joke is a hilarious quip mocking it. Your only chance is to have a joke so good... so amazing... that the creators hear it, commit suicide to escape the shame, and leave you all their money so the world can build a solid gold statue commemorating your unprecedented comedy genius.
And obviously, I could totally do that. I just think it would be tacky, is all.
Instead, I'll talk a little less about the game than I usually do, since it'd just be various flavours of "...and that's not funny either," in favour of embedding some videos. That seems the fairest way to let Kingdom O' Magic's comedy speak for itself—for better or worse. Also, it means I don't have to type as much, and can save those letters for the next time I need to cheat at Scrabble.
"Triskaidekaphobia" on a triple-word score, bitches.
Here's the kind of game this is. The very first scene, relating to absolutely nothing, is of a flying spaceship toilet, which zooms past the camera and is captioned with a Star Trek reference like "The Undiscovered County". There's a gag about how the Dark Lord of the Kingdom O' Magic lives in the tower creators SCI originally built for the Lawnmower Man game Cyberwar (opens in new tab), and how it's here as part of a prop recycling program. It's a game that on the surface acts all laid back and like it wants to you poke and prod at it, but which takes great pleasure in murdering you in the middle of conversations.
When its gags work, it's usually because they're weird enough to be a sucker punch, or so bad that they punch through the bottom of the barrel and find the beautiful, starry land where the good puns go after they die. This doesn't happen very often, but every now and again is better than never.
At least one of those jokes turned out to be on it though. Kingdom O' Magic is a surprisingly complex game, with three quests and two main characters to choose from. The majority of the game is the same, but in one you have to go kill a dragon, in another fight the Dark Lord, and in the third one assemble a team of heroes to defend a sleepy town from imminent danger. The two characters are Thidney The Lizard Bloke, voiced by TV's John Sessions (who I'm sure remembers the honour of this role) and Shah-Ron The Girlie, played—inevitably—by Lani Minella. The joke is that to parody fantasy heroines, she has comically large breasts. Kingdom O' Magic came out in the same year as Tomb Raider.
So, yeaaaaaaah... Good timing on that one, guys.
The plot is nothing but an excuse to hang parodies on, though to give Kingdom O' Magic some credit, it does at least fill its world with jokes rather than purely references. They're mostly bad jokes poorly delivered, but simply trying puts it well above, say, Seltzer and Friedberg's movies. Even so, it's just too... empty. It's a string of one-liners and quick gags with nothing to add any impact, no characters who last more than their designated couple of gags, and no personal or emotional stakes in anything.
In short, it's like being trapped in a room with a rookie standup comedian who thinks jokes about airline food are still an untapped comedy goldmine, with the experience stretched out by an open world that enforces the kind of torturous backtracking normally only seen when a hiker realises they dropped their wedding ring somewhere along the Hindu Kush. As well as their heart pills. And a baby.
That's not how they phrased it on the box, of course.
The really scary thing though is that while Kingdom O' Magic feels like a bad idea, it's actually a massive step up on its creator's previous work—a Western version of the same anything-goes style called The Town With No Name. True story: it takes longer to finish than it did to make! [citation needed (opens in new tab)]
...and even that is a step up from the same team's other somewhat infamous 'game', Psycho Killer. This is genuinely the entire game, in one 10-minute video. Of that, two minutes are the world's most patronising tutorial, the credits are another minute, and there's a death reel on the end.
This is not some Flash game on Newgrounds. This was sold for money (opens in new tab) that could have been spent on feeding starving orphans or paying a psychopath to stab them with used needles from a dumpster outside a VD clinic, and frankly both would have been better uses for it. Behold!
And you know what's worse? Kingdom O' Magic wasn't even the main writer's attempt at this, having already done a Lord of the Rings parody called Bored of the Rings. This is the polished version of the concept! With a budget and everything! A budget for 3D graphics, even!
(True, they were these 3D graphics, but still...)
By these standards, Kingdom O' Magic is the greatest example of an adventure game leading to better things since Cliff Bleszinski went from Dare to Dream (opens in new tab) to Gears of War. It is at least an actual game with a few genuinely funny moments in it, if you know where to look. As said, I have a soft spot for the Narrator, who is pretty good and gets some nicely sardonic back-and-forth going with whichever character you choose. And the Ringwraiths got at least a smile—especially their sniffling leader.
Now, as much as I'd rather drink a pint of my own sick—or at a pinch, Diet Coke—than play any more of this game, there is a chance that you've found these videos the funniest things ever. You may also be wondering why nobody has spoken to you in the last few years. It is because we were pre-emptively shunning you for that fact. Some kind of head trauma should help reset your personality. Ask, and someone will lend you a hammer—and maybe even the manual.
But! While you wait for it to be delivered, you can get all the Kingdom O' Magic you want on YouTube. Here's The Good Old Fashioned Traditional Quest (opens in new tab), where a new way to slay a dragon is discovered. And, of course, the Bizarre and Slightly Twisted Quest, which I haven't linked because I've embedded it below. It's the best of the game's quests, and not just because it has a Dark Lord who says "Arse" in it. That's only about 3/5 of the reason. Maybe 4/5...