Did I miss out on something? When the Higgs boson was discovered did we somehow learn to time travel? It’s late 2012 and I’m reviewing a game that has finally been released in the States after being translated to English in 2011, following a 2009 release that was full of mechanics from 1994. I feel like I’m missing something here.
The Book Of Unwritten Tales is a point-and-click adventure game that would have been perfectly at home in the early 90s. While the mechanics can seem outright archaic in a market swamped with first-person shooter juggernauts and 3D action games, there’s something comforting about a game like this. It’s kind of like visiting your grandparents. Sure, they may not have that newfangled HDTV, but everything there works exactly as you remember. Plus, you know, grandma’s cookies.
King Art Games went to no small lengths to try and capture all of the magic that can be found in the genre. The fact that they took the time to record multiple lines of dialogue for when I would click on an otherwise useless chair should speak volumes to this effect. Everything in the game world is placed out in a logical way that fits the simplistic mechanics. The only real thing I noticed that could be considered a modernization of the genre is that, by pushing space everything that is clickable in the level is highlighted for your convenience.
While this was undoubtedly put in to eliminate the all too common complaint of overlooking something minor needed to progress, it highlights my major complaint with the title. There’s next to no challenge to be found here. Sure, there are a few fairly clever puzzles that may cause you to furrow your brow momentarily, but there’s nothing here that will truly challenge you. If you find yourself stuck, I’m willing to wager that you simply didn’t finish a dialogue tree or look at an item completely.
It’s a minor complaint in the long run, and I quickly fell into the habit of clicking on things until the dialogue started to repeat, but it’s really unnecessary. If the character is going to look at a net and tell me that it looks useful, he may as well just pick it up without me having to spell it out for him.
The Book Of Unwritten Tales does try to spice it up a bit with a few special quests (such as a manual potion brewing section and a strange attempt at a stealth section) but these are few and far between. King Art Games shows flashes of utter brilliance at times, but never strays off the beaten path long enough to truly pursue them.
The game’s featured art is simply outstanding. There are a few graphical hiccups at times and items may intersect each other from time to time, but the aesthetics presented are outstanding. The levels are brilliantly detailed and manage to really convey the atmosphere perfectly. The dwarven tavern really feels like a drafty hole delicately cut into the mountain itself to offer a hideaway from the merciless terrain. Each piece of scenery was obviously a labor of love for the art team.
Even the character models show a great attention to detail. Wilbur’s gnome attire looks appropriately lived in and seems fitting for someone of his stature. It’s truly unfortunate that, for everything the art team did right, they fumbled the cutscenes fairly badly. The characters come off as incredibly stiff and the usually vibrant world seems fairly dull. Luckily, there aren’t all that many true cutscenes, but it’s definitely disappointing to see them miss on this mark.
Clumsy cut scenes aside, the characters are magnificent thanks in large part to some fantastic voice acting. All of the actors manage to add a bit of dimension to their characters without overpowering one another. The dialogue is witty while being just a tad snarky, creating some fantastic back-and-forth. If it wasn’t for the lackluster Nate character, there would be nothing to complain about on this front.
I consider voice acting one of the more important parts of a game and I don’t think I’m wrong for this. Consider it the chair you’re sitting in. A fantastically comfortable seat will stand out, but normally you won’t think anything of it unless something is off. If the voice acting breaks the immersion of a title, it’s very hard to get that solid foundation back. The Book Of Unwritten Tales offers you a very comfortable chair.
The Book Of Unwritten Tales prides itself on its self-referential humor, and for good reason. The little jabs at the fantasy genre as well as gaming as a whole are extremely well done and somehow never managed to get old throughout the 11 hour playthrough. For instance, at one point early in the game you find two players engrossed in a role-playing game attempting to escape the tedium of reality with all of its magic and monsters. I desperately needed their services, but since one character was in a no parking area while the other was trying to file his tax returns, I couldn’t really expect any help until they finished playing.
It’s nice that The Book Of Unwritten Tales is also able to refer back to some gaming heirlooms without falling into “creepy fan-boy” territory. At one point, I met a swashbuckling rat thief that I (naturally) had to challenge to a sword fight. After informing him that he fights like a dairy farmer, he replied with, “How appropriate; you fight like a cow.” Knowing I couldn’t defeat someone of his skill, I quickly promised to never steal others’ lines again. It’s a fine line between paying homage to the classics and drooling over the source material, but it’s a line expertly walked here.
I’m going to err on the side of not telling you enough about the story, since that is the selling point in any adventure game. What I will say is that, while it is a bit cliché at times, the tongue-in-cheek humor keeps things moving and I was consistently excited to see what would be presented next.
This is a game that I would have been delighted to play twenty years ago and is a great launching point for new adventure fans. The abrupt ending and simplistic puzzles definitely left a sour taste in my mouth, but the rest of the product is simply too fantastic to not recommend. Its witty dialogue, engaging story and charming vibe make it one of those titles you really should experience sometime. There’s nothing here that reinvents the wheel, but when you do the basics this well you really don’t have to. If you have even a passing interest in point-and-click adventure games, you owe it to yourself to check this one out.
This review is based on a copy of the game that we were provided with for review purposes.
The Book Of Unwritten Tales may not do anything to reinvent the wheel, but it still manages to present an incredibly engaging experience.