by Chris Priestman
reviewed on PC
Lost In Translation?
Point-and-click adventure games, good ones that is, are very rare nowadays. You really have to search for them as they apparently lie beyond the realms of mainstream interest. That is a huge shame really, if for no other reason than that the genre has always provided an unparalleled humour. Perhaps it is their relative slow pace, or their naturally clunky gameplay when compared to other genres that deemed them unsuitable for today's gamer. Whatever it may be, they have been cast out of the sphere that is currently occupied by shooters and sports games, and discouraged to ever attempt a comeback.
On the bright side, there is hope coming from the likes of Germany-based King Art Games. Their original release of The Book of Unwritten Tales in 2009 was met with great success in their native country, but they wanted to expand the experience to English speaking players and set out to localise the game.
It was Margaret Thatcher that said “Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy.” The result of this contrast is a stark difference in aesthetics. It has passed through books, art, films and quite obviously games as well. This sense of the European, in particular the painterly past, resides within the very core of The Book of Unwritten Tales. The hand-drawn backdrops carry the influence of Expressionist tones and shapes, and the Lord of the Rings-inspired fantasy world runs deep with a sense of history that only a European sensibility can truly grasp. Yet, this will not alienate any of those who reside beyond the reaches of Europe, it simply paints the game with a different brush than what they may be used to.
Certainly, the game may be entrenched with the European aesthetic, but it takes its essence from the widely known Monkey Island series. That is to say it contains a heavily contradicting set of influences. Whereas the European aesthetic is imbued with a historical awareness and serves as a backdrop, the game's surface is very much based within the modern world. The characters are more likely to reference a well-known brand or contemplate the issues that surround what is unmistakably the lives of us 21st century folk. Just like its main influence, this tongue-in-cheek displacement reaches a peak when the characters return the gazing eye of the player and acknowledge their existence as characters in a computer game. These moments still excite and surprise as much as they did when Guybrush first initiated this point-and-click ritual.
The contrast between the two distinct influences is actually evidenced in a visual manner too, though not quite to such a desirous effect. While the backdrops are unquestionably gorgeous, the characters on the foreground sometimes fit awkwardly atop as they jitter during animations and compromise the graphical fidelity. These slight flaws are easily ignored, but make identifying the game's age very easy. Some work could have been made to improve this during the two year localisation process perhaps, but it is good to see that the developers got their priorities right and focused on more needy procedures.
Lashings of humor and a most memorable return from a genre long thought to be dying, beautiful backdrops, outstanding farcical moments
Some minor issues with the gameplay make the experience drag at times, animations are far from perfect