by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
In vogue again
Point and Click Adventure games have had somewhat of a revival in recent times. There was a time where they were shunned by publishers, and to a certain extent that is still the case. But there has been a boost in popularity and I believe there are two reasons for this. The first is Telltale Games. They have definitely been part of the rejuvenation with their episodic releases of updated favourites such as Sam & Max as well as injecting some freshness with the recent release of The Walking Dead series. Another boon for Adventure games has been Steam and the advent of direct distribution, making it simpler and much more viable for developers to promote their wares. The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles is one such Point and Click Adventure game that has benefited from the Steam platform.
And itís just as well, because Critter Chronicles is a heap of fun to play. For me, solving adventure game puzzles is always rewarding, but having a fun storyline makes it doubly so. And it is in this regard that Critter Chronicles does so well. As I played through the game there were just so many laugh out loud moments. And when I wasnít laughing at the misadventures of Captain Nate Bonnet, I was giggling at the numerous pop-culture references. There are Star Wars references aplenty. Watching as Nate hangs from the ceiling of an ice cave inhabited by a Wampa-like Yeti as he attempts to reach for a cylindrical device stuck in the snow below had me chuckling to myself. And itís not just Star Wars that gets the treatment. There was a reference to Mario Bros that was hilarious, as were the jokes about hidden object games and even a reference to Game of ThronesÖ ĎWinter is Comingí.
What would Guybrush do?
Along with the humour in the references, the story has some funny moments as well. As a prequel to the 2011 game The Book of Unwritten Tales you play as Captain Nate Bonnet, a bumbling captain along the lines of the famed Guybrush Threepwood, who has recently acquired a semi run-down airship from an air pirate. Unfortunately, it has been said that Nate did not entirely win legally and a bounty has been put on his head. His bad luck doesnít end there as his misadventures have him crash landing on an inhospitable land striking a remarkable resemblance to Hoth from the Empire Strikes Back. It is there that he meets the Yeti creature and a scientist with a case of Alzheimerís disease.
Gameplay is fairly straightforward for even novice adventure gamers. Most of the puzzles require Nate to pick up objects and use them in ways that would even leave MacGyver scratching his head. As with other games in the genre, many puzzles require joining two or more objects together. Finding some of the objects could be quite difficult if it wasnít for the Hotspot locator. Pressing the Space Bar show all the current Hotspots, and it is here that all the objects can be obtained or puzzle elements solved.
The only aspect of the gameplay that took me a little bit of fumbling around was the inventory system. At the start of the game, I could see I was picking up items, but I couldnít seem to access them in the usual way. Luckily, after finding the solution, it seemed so intuitive. Moving the mouse down to the bottom of the playing screen brings up the items you have collected. So simple.
The standard point and click puzzles are interspersed with other fun mini-puzzles such as lock-picking, maze solving and even a section where you need to paint a canvas of a bottle of wine. Each of these certainly adds some variation to the gameplay and indeed it was some of these Professor Leyton style mini-puzzles that I enjoyed more than the main plot puzzles.
Lows and highs
The only major letdown in the game is the visuals. Although they are not really that bad they wonít win any awards. They do the job well enough though in typical point-and-click adventure style. The cartoon styled graphics depict the various locations nicely but captain Nate and the other characters are somewhat clunky looking.
The average visuals only heighten the great audio. Our heroic captain in particular, but also all the other characters, are superbly voiced. The comical dialogue is well performed by the voice actors giving the characters more personality. And along with the usual sound effects, makes Critter Chronicles an audible pleasure
Adventuring is fun
Imagine having limited items to shoot at a bounty hunter with a cannon. Imagine then deciding that confetti or cotton buds would be the best option. Some of the puzzles donít seem to make any sense at all, but after completing the farcical scene, things make perfect sense. It is the quirky puzzles, the fun mini-puzzles and the humorous dialogue and references that make The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Creature Chronicles so enjoyable to play. If you are a fan of point-and-click adventures, then youíll surely get pleasure from Critter Chronicles. If you have played the original Unwritten Tales title, then definitely donít give this one a miss.
Funny story with some great pop-culture references.
Visuals are somewhat outdated.