It’s a wonderful time to be playing point-and-click adventure games. From The Walking Dead to Life is Strange, the genre’s enjoyed a well-deserved renaissance in recent years, and there are no signs of it slowing down if series like The Book of Unwritten Tales can help it. The rambunctious stepchild of classic adventure games and the world of high fantasy, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is a laugh-out-loud testament to KING Art Games’ talent at quick-witted satire and the truest sequel that fans could ask for.
Set some time after its predecessor, the story follows our four unlikely heroes as they figure their way out of various entanglements – strange and otherwise. In Seastone, Wilbur Weathervane bumbles through his new teaching position at a school of wizardry while Ivo deals with the headache of welcoming an unexpected new life. Meanwhile, Nathan Bonnet and Critter contend with an angry pirate captain for an ancient and powerful treasure as darker forces and old faces return for their sweet revenge.
The six years since its series debut has clearly treated The Book of Unwritten Tales well, as its impressive production value would attest. The sequel boasts the visual upgrade you would expect of new generation console hardware and its radiant backgrounds glow with life and color. Complimenting its improved character models are the addition of real-time animations that lend a more organic quality to the game’s impeccable art direction, though it does enable some awkward graphical phase-ins. That it should all be accompanied by a sweeping musical score makes it feel that much more like the storybook fairytales that it roasts in tandem with its lovable voiceovers.
While the story may be anything but highbrow, the game boasts all the intelligent design and imaginative storytelling that fans love. Its host of quirky characters round out a priceless cast and its engaging puzzles allow you to appreciate of every little detail as much as they demand it. That things grow stranger as the story arcs progress lends a palpable tension, as the plotlines converge to form an increasingly wackier picture amidst the game’s always revealing subtext of impromptu political commentary and knowing gags. Though its pacing leaves something to be desired, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 doesn’t long to grow on you at the cost of wearing thin.
At just under 20 hours in length, the game is more than ambitious for its normally hurried genre and arguably five hours too long at that. Its brain teasers offer a variety of scenarios that interesting and amusing for eagle-eyed players with a mind for playing “I, Spy with my Little Eye” with objects in the environment. While arguing with a literal internet troll and cheating a mummy out of his magical keepsakes are…interesting…to say the least, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 could certainly afford to move at a brisker pace and didn’t need to involve an hour scavenging for alcohol and fetching cogs for zombies.
Yet, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is often worth the patience it requires. KING Art Games is a studio that appreciates the tropes of the genre as much as it does the history of its chosen medium, and this sequel is awash in nostalgia for everything it parodies. It takes great pride in breaking the fourth wall with a wrecking ball of pop culture references from Portal to Final Fantasy and Easter eggs from such random depths as Game of Thrones and Doctor Who that are impossible not to smile at.
Controlling the game, however, is something that puts the experience a small step back on Xbox One. Without a space bar, the console version lacks the ability to highlight every object in the environment simultaneously. Manually looking each object is an unneeded chore that the Xbox One’s analog sticks are up to, though they lack the precision of a mouse. Such trifles are arguably minor grievances, but are nonetheless more noticeably present than they should.
At its core, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is the sum of its parts: a charming study in the absurd from humble beginnings to its predictably strange end. It’s beautiful to look at and it’ll get a laugh out of you even if its pacing and controls could leave a better impression. The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is nonetheless a stirring achievement in video game narrative that will hopefully ensure that the genre has something delightful to offer for a long time to come.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which was provided to us.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is another excellent entry into the point-and-click adventure, and makes for an enjoyable, impressive and genuinely hilarious sequel.