by Ingvi Snædal
reviewed on PC
Pink is Coming
The Book of Unwritten Tales is a charismatic point-and-click adventure that aims to deliver the charm of Simon the Sorcerer and the humour of the Discworld series, all dressed up in an up-to-date 2.5D suit. Its story follows that of Wilbur, a gnome who dreams of becoming a mage; Nate, a narcissist who only agrees to help after being rescued from a bounty hunter; Ivo, an elven princess who gets dragged into the story when she attempts to rescue an old gremlin whose kidnapping she witnesses; and Critter, Nate’s companion and token walking carpet. It appears the original story and its prequel, Critter Chronicles, were not enough for our band of merry adventurers, so out comes The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 to get their restless adventuring hearts back in action.
During the intro sequence, the mechanics of the Game of Thrones inspired mechanical map keep breaking and you, playing as a small WALL-E look-alike, must repair the pieces. This serves as the game’s tutorial and is implemented in a rather amusing way. When the game itself starts, you’re treated to a scene where Nate is freefalling along with the rubble of a ship toward the ground. Off to an exciting start. Ivo is locked up in her room by her mother as she tries to find a suitable husband for her daughter. Wilbur has become the only teacher in the mage school and finds himself trapped in the murky waters of Seastone politics. While all our friends are getting used to their new situations, something strange is going on in the land. Something that will soon have our heroes working together to once again save the day. Something...pink.
A symptom of the times
The first thing I noticed about the game is that the visual style looks stunningly beautiful and the colours come bursting out of the screen when walking around the elven gardens. Visually, the game is a treat for the eyes, especially when the focus changes as the player character moves from foreground to background, and it’s only when things start bugging out that the immersion into the game world is somewhat shaken. At one point, Wilbur’s lips formed two equilateral triangles with his teeth serving as a shared line. On another occasion, a fire that was supposed to change colour (won’t spoil the plot by telling you why or how) didn’t, a jewellery box was open while it wasn’t supposed to be, and the characters sometimes got completely lost, presumably due to a bug in the pathfinding script. In addition to these visual bugs, the voice occasionally dropped out for a sentence or two, sounding almost like someone had disconnected the centre speaker in a surround sound system. These bugs were in no way game-breaking, but they do imply a lower standard than that of the game’s predecessor. Whether this is a symptom of it being a crowdfunded game that then went on to Early Access, one can only speculate.
The game is rather easy to play and you shouldn’t have to consult a walkthrough at any point. In addition to the standard left and right mouse clicks, you can hold down the spacebar, highlighting every interactive object in the scene. This is something many modern games in the genre do but here, once an item has served its purpose, it ceases to be interactive and no longer shows up when the bar is held. In addition to this, while an inventory item is selected, a description will only appear at the bottom of the screen if you’re hovering that item over one that it can be used with. This way, you’ll never get stuck re-clicking all the things you’ve already clicked and trying to mix every item in your inventory with every other item in an attempt to move forward. This puts the focus on the story and, since many of the game’s puzzles are rather absurd, it helps keep the story moving forward.
How to satirise
What made the previous game a hit among fans of the genre was the character design and the characters’ interaction with one another. Death dressed in his long black robe and pink bunny slippers was one such character and one that could have been lifted straight from the works of Terry Pratchett. This game is full of references that’ll put a slight smile in the corner of your mouth as you make the connection, but at times it feels as though the whole scene has been deliberately designed for their presence. That is to say, that the story takes a backseat to references designed to trigger nostalgia. Having to repeatedly cast a fishing line into a pond in the hopes of catching a red herring as every throw gives you experience in your fishing skill is one such scene. This is clearly poking fun at MMORPGs which will have you standing in the same spot for hours leveling up your skill, but in a point-and-click adventure game it serves no purpose. The activity is irritating in MMORPGs and it is doubly so here as it is not an MMORPG. One of the tricks to successfully pulling off satire in games is not to force the player to perform the activity you’re making fun of.
The game is a very enjoyable experience and KING Art is to be commended for making some of the most polished games in the genre these days. The humour is also still present and accounted for but while I was hoping to rekindle my love affair with The Book of Unwritten Tales, I simply missed the heart of its predecessor in this outing. While I heartily recommend the game to fans who want more of Wilbur, Ivo, Nate, and Critter, if you’re a newcomer to the series (or the genre for that matter), I’d suggest picking up the original. It’s a classic.
Beautiful visuals, packed with humour, colourful characters
Some bugs still present, references become trite