Developer: KING Art
Publisher: Nordic Games
Release Date: August 1st, 2012
Originally released in 2009 in Germany, The Book Of Unwritten Tales is a point-and-click adventure game recently released (again) on Steam, and follows the journey of several heroes and villains who will not stop until they reference every movie franchise ever made…
Click, click, click, click, click, click, click
The Book Of Unwritten Tales contains every problem I hate about point-and-click adventure games, with characters picking up incredibly arbitrary things for absolutely no reason, but leaving others. There was a moment when a character said they weren’t going to open a crypt because they had no reason to, which made me scream in my head “You let me pick up an inkwell, glue, rubber chicken, bellows, pom-pom and a feather but you don’t LOOK in a crypt!?”.
The ability to push ‘space’ and see every clickable thing in the room is an immersion-breaking blessing, and the only reason I used it so much is that many objects are too small to even notice. Case in point:
You will need to pan every inch of every area to find an object you, as a player, will know you’ll use later. The problem is that objects stay ‘highlighted’ if they’re useable later, like dripping candle wax which is to be used on an envelope, so not only does the game flat out show you what an eventual solution’s components are, but it always comes down to you clicking, looking and talking at everything until the solution falls onto you.
You will need to pan every inch of every area to find an object
This was annoyingly apparent during a particular moment where I had to continuously look at a bunch of pictures inside a barrel, only for the third one to be taken out and used. What was wrong with the others?!
And that’s why I dislike point-and-click adventures games so much. If you don’t know what to do, just talk to everyone and click on everything and you’ll eventually and coincidentally receive exactly what you’re looking for.
Seriously, much of the progression you make it just by talking to people and collecting objects that literally serve no purpose. One of the first tasks you’re given is to collect a bunch of equipment for yourself, 2/3’s of which are NEVER used, and that’s not the only time something like that happens.
Thank god for tasks like brewing a potion or dancing, both requiring distinct actions instead of wild foraging for sticks, rocks and cups. Although disappointingly rare, these moments do help to break up the monotony a bit, except brewing the potion where you have to stir a pot a specific amount of times using the computer mouse…not fun.
Fortunately, characters often describe items to the point that it hints at its use and most (not all) item combinations do make some sense.
When you don’t have to speak to people to get given necessary tools or stumble upon stupidly specific items (a juicer…really?), puzzles like making a fishing rod out of worms, a fish bone, a stick and some wire feels sensible yet satisfyingly fantastical. It’s certainly better than the part in The Dig where you have to reconstruct an alien skeleton despite the fact that you have no idea what it looks like.
The Land Of Pointius Clickius
The Book Of Unwritten Tales has a fairly generic and unexplained world, and pretty much every character vomits out movie references whenever they can, even when it doesn’t even make any contextual sense, like when the Elf ties a whip to something and starts humming the Indiana Jones theme. What, do they have it on DVD in their fantasy land?
But with the help of marvelous music, gorgeous graphics and v….va…vantastic voice acting….good enough, the journey alone becomes surprisingly endearing and fun.
The story is well paced, if a tad slow due to the game’s genre, and each character doesn’t overstay their welcome. And with the help of a few recurring characters and objects, every area feels somewhat connected to one another.
But the game clearly bites off more than it could chew. Only about two out of a dozen characters get close to being developed, meaning you hardly get a sense of anyone’s motivations and, worst of all, the power the villains posses.
There’s even a playable “character” that is such a random and useless addition that he could have been written out of the entire game and the story wouldn’t have budged an inch.
Many objects are only there so characters can spout information about them and their importance, including a photo which plays a cinematic that goes on for way too long, so the game feels far too preoccupied in forming atmosphere and history for its world without it really leading anywhere.
The Book Of Unwritten Tales suffers from everything all other adventure games suffer from.
item combinations are just as cryptic and precise as adventure games get
Almost every amount of progress can be made by crudely clicking dialogue choices and objects until a solution happens without any sense of challenge, and it’s this kind of ‘attrition game play’ that can make the game tedious…fast.
Some objects are astoundingly hard to see (Push “space”! It really helps), and the item combinations are just as cryptic and precise as adventure games get.
The music and visuals are incredible. The soundtrack in particular could be used in a movie score and I wouldn’t complain. The graphics are delightfully cartoonish and beautifully detailed, in fact, just look at this:
The characters are very one note, but thanks to some relatively witty writing, some lines of dialogue rival those of Guybrush Threepwood. I laughed out loud three times during this which I haven’t done in quite a while.
However, the German to English translation has some hiccups. Characters will often say dialogue that won’t match up with the subtitles. If the text has the word “wan’t” in it…something’s wrong.
The game, although taking me about 15 hours to finish, feels awkwardly short. There are some interesting situations that are only interesting from a story stand point, but the overall plot feels very hollow and forced. There’s hardly any build up to a climax and when it finally happens the game just…kinda…ends.
BoG’s The Book Of Unwritten Tales Score: 8.0
Who so high?:
- Beautiful graphical design. I happily took 59 screen shots. Seriously
- Great music. I was humming the soundtrack a few minutes after playing
- Rather good voice acting
- Clever dialogue helps with clues and is funny a lot of the time
- Some puzzles are quite clever and satisfying the complete
Why so low?:
- Most of the tasks are cryptic, nonsensical and random…as I expected
- Characters are underdeveloped, barely giving any motivation or back-story to anyone
- Many objects are too small to even see.
- The Elven girl annoys me…