Review: The Book of Unwritten Tales
GAME NAME: The Book of Unwritten Tales
DEVELOPER(S): King Art
PUBLISHER(S): HMH Interactive, Crimson Cow, Lace Mamba
PLATFORM(S): PC, Mac
RELEASE DATE(S): 31 July 2012 (Steam)
Over recent years, we've seen a resurgence in the popularity of point and click adventure games. Whilst The Book of Unwritten Tales follows a traditional format, it manages to put its own stamp on the genre with an awesome sense of humour, sensible puzzle resolution and triple-A presentation.
Set in a typical RPG fantasy universe, The Book of Unwritten Tales tells the story of four heroes inadvertently drawn into a quest to find a powerful amulet and save the land. You start out with just one playable character, and over the course of the game you’re introduced to three more; each with their own distinct personality and skills. Wilbur Weathervane is a gnome who cares little for technology and dreams of magic and adventure; Ivo is an Elven princess who’s bravery and moral sense prove essential; Nate is a lovable buccaneer who always puts Nate first; and Critter is… um… a cool bendy Muppet thing. If you’ve played The Critter Chronicles you’ll no doubt recognise Nate and Critter as they’re the stars of the prequel.
If you’ve never played a point and click adventure game, this is a great place to start. It’s completely mouse driven and uses a “smart” mouse pointer meaning you don’t have to manage whether a click will look, pick up, talk, etc. This makes it very easy to play and subtly forces you to examine objects before picking them up. Initially this can feel overly laborious as you must listen to the character describe an item prior to collecting it, however it prevents you from skipping over funny and often important dialogue.
Gameplay-wise, The Book of Unwritten Tales is a fairly standard point and click game. In-game dialogue blends seamlessly with cut scenes to tell the story and provide your objectives. Most puzzles simply require you to find or combine items, speak to people or visit certain areas however King Art keep this from becoming stagnant by adding variety to the way they’re completed. Sometimes you’ll have control of a few heroes and must coordinate their actions whilst other times you’ll be on your own. When you make a potion there’s a brewing mini game to play, when you want to summon lightning you have to complete a rhythm mini game to do a lightning dance, and so on… it’s clever, fun and adds variety to the game.
King Art have also managed to avoid the trap of making puzzle resolution nonsensical. I remember loving games like Sam ‘n’ Max but ultimately becoming annoyed when the solutions were illogical and frustrating. Whilst addressing this leaves the puzzles a little easy it has the benefit of making The Book of Unwritten Tales an enjoyable experience.
Where The Book of Unwritten Tales really sets itself apart is in its presentation. Visually it looks absolutely stunning. The graphics are crisp, colourful, detailed and have a unique style that carries through the entire game. It uses over exaggerated styling similar to what you’d expect from an animated film but adds realistic textures and effects to project a truly beautiful world. Each area looks distinctly different and complete down to the finest detail. This level of detail and painted-art style also carries over to the characters resulting in a seamless blend of movable characters and background scenery.
To back up the quirky feel the game is loaded with personality; whether it be the referential jokes or the self-aware jibes it presents itself in a fashion that never grows old. Almost every line in the game has a pop-culture reference and the prevalent sense of humour had me laughing aloud on many occasions. Some references are subtle like asking Death why he's not talking in capital letters (Terry Pratchett) whilst others are blatant like an Obi-Wan Kenobi style hologram (Star Wars).
Musically, the game is subtle and clever. The score matches the artistic temperament and “quirky” feel of the game perfectly and blends well with background sound effects. Not only is the original score well themed but they also seamlessly sneak in popular songs and sound effects. You might be in the Dwarven mountains and Edvard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain King" will start playing; or perhaps you're swinging from a whip and you character starts humming the Indiana Jones theme; it's all very clever and sure to bring a smile to your face. Personally I particularly liked the trumpet fanfare that played whenever you completed a task. Nothing like a good old trumpet fanfare and a smile on your character's face to hammer home that "job well done" feel!
It’s not hard to see that the time taken to translate The Book of Unwritten Tales from German to English was not wasted. The script and humour have carried well and the cast of English voice acting is nothing short of perfect. Each character has a distinct and different accent which ties in well and supports the overall atmosphere and style of the game. They use just the right level of expression to carry the jokes well and have enough emotion to portray the character’s feelings and emotions.
Whilst not the most innovative of games, The Book of Unwritten Tales brings together the best elements of the genre to create a near perfect point and click experience. The graphics, sound, interface and sense of humour all combine to make a truly enjoyable game. It will take you around 12-16 hours to complete, dependant on your skill of course, and there’s very little replay value however I didn't view this as a negative. The length feels about right and the variety in play style keeps it from becoming boring. Games like this remind me of a good book; you may not view it again immediately but, one day, you'll feel the urge to go through it again, not to challenge yourself or enjoy the thrill of discovery, but just for the experience and the laughs.
If you like point and click games then do yourself a favour and give this game a go!