Point-and-click games were once all the rage in the gaming community. Unfortunately all that rage was back in the mid-90’s with games like Grim Fandango, that’s two decades ago for those of us who are temporally challenged. Now, all the point-and-clickery has been relegated to filling up flash game portals, being scant elements in games that started life that way, or as a tool to help progress story, as opposed to being the focus in episodic games like the Telltale games. It seems nobody passed on the memo to King Art, the developers of The Book of Unwritten Tales 2.
Which is a good thing, because The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is actually pretty good. It isn’t perfect, not even close, but if you wanted an adventure game experience that is neither awful nor a remake or remaster of a game from decades past, you could do much worse. Of course, you aren’t here to read that this game is good with no rhyme or reason given. You want to know why it’s good. Thus, I shall tell you about The Book of Unwritten Tales 2.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Book of Unwritten Tales series, it is a point-and-click adventure series that first showed up in 2009 exclusively in Germany. It was later translated and got a more global audience through platforms like Steam. In 2012, we got a prequel to the first The Book of Unwritten Tales and now we have the sequel.
Fear not, however, if you have yet to play any of the previous games. Just like with Knights of the Old Republic 2, although it would have been helpful to have done so, not having played the predecessors doesn’t take away much from your enjoyment of the game. You will find out everything you need to know in conversations and will only be missing the odd back reference.
The tutorial to the game itself is quite good. Done in such an interesting way that I felt as though I just had to mention it. Many games have started to add intro credits to their beginning and Kings Art, the developer of The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, has decided to incorporate that into the tutorial.
The whole thing is a Game of Thrones-esque mechanical diorama showing the fantastical world of The Book of Unwritten Tales 2. Unfortunately, it is prone to breaking down and thus, the onus is on you, the little caretaker robot, to fix the diorama every time something goes awry. This simultaneously teaches you all the controls you need to know as well as being a pretty nifty idea for how to do intro credits.
The controls themselves are nothing too complex, it is a point-and-click adventure game after all, but it was good of the tutorial to be thorough nonetheless.
One big selling point of the game is its brand of comedy. There’s a lot of it. Be it slap-stick, subdued, absurd situations or even crass humor, there’s a little of everything. It’s really hit-or-miss depending on the individual, but you’re more than likely going to laugh at a joke/gag or two. It’s quirky and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, making for a pretty enjoyable experience in the story and laughs department.
The voice acting is pretty hit-or-miss though. While the voice actors sounded fine, the main problem stemmed from the voices not working contextually. For example, when you’re holding onto a log hurtling down to the ground, you’d expect it to be harder to talk, to breathe, you’d be a lot more rushed in your pleadings with a genie on getting you out of the predicament. You just didn’t get that extra oomph from the voices to really help immerse you into the experience. It really felt like the voice actors were thrown into a box and given some lines with little context of what was happening around them.
There are other problems too, chief of which is the subtitling. Now, this may seem like an odd gripe, but it is perhaps the biggest contributor to jarring me out of the experience. For some reason, the developers at Kings Art have decided that the best way to utilize subtitles is to sit them on top of the character that was speaking the lines, as if we were playing Runescape or something.
It might not necessarily be crystal clear why this might be a problem if you look at the above image of the bird going “cheep cheep.” However, if you look in the image below, you might get a better sense of the problem.
Yes, a lot of the time you will see extremely long subtitles stretching across the screen covering up faces of characters and more. To compound the problem, each character has their own color for their own subtitles, which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that the scenes themselves were already quite colorful, thus making the subtitles blend in at times, taking away readability.
And it’s not like it’s that hard to tell who is talking when the subtitles are directly over the character’s head to require special colors too. Heck, I’d say that 99% of the population would be able to tell who is talking by pure context itself, thus making it entirely possible to have subtitles placed where they should be, at the edge of the screen. Making things worse, there were even instances of the subtitles not matching up with what was being said at all.
Add in the fact that the lip-sync is abominable for the English version and you have the making of a very jarring experience indeed. Especially up close. Which is probably why they kick your view as far away from the action as possible. I have heard the lip-syncs are actually made for the German version of the game, which would be fine if you were playing the game in German, but since you are reading this review, you’re more likely going to be playing the game in a language that isn’t German.
There is also the problem of character path-finding. Sometimes, the characters just don’t seem to be able to make their way to the place you want them to be. Case in point, in the tutorial, as the little robot, I clicked on an interact-able object that was right next to the robot and instead of actually interacting with the object, the little robot just spun around like a top. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to do that because once I clicked the object again, it jarred into place and did what it was supposed to do.
Sure, one can say “just make sure you double click every time!” However, that doesn’t work, because clicking skips dialogue and if you click too much, you are very likely to miss important conversations as it tends to be the most important conversations that aren’t repeated.
It isn’t all that bad though, while the problems are there, they don’t completely ruin the game if you manage to filter it out, as there are plenty of other good things to list as well, like the visuals.
For those of you who are familiar with The Book of Unwritten Tales series, you will probably have noticed that the art style is quite changed from the original. For the better. The graphics and visuals are much improved and smoother, with more detailed textures, and more cartoony looking characters.
In fact, one of my biggest gripes with many adventure games is how characters and interact-able objects just look out of place with their static environments. This isn’t the case with The Book of Unwritten Tales 2. All things look like they belong and blend in well. The art style is consistent, lighting looks more realistic. For everything that the voice acting, lip-syncing or subtitling takes away from the experience, the visuals claw a big chunk of it back.
Add in the fact that the game is full of references to pop culture and other games like Minecraft, Skyrim, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Portal, House, Game of Thrones and more that the more eagle-eyed player would notice and appreciate and it makes the game that much better.
The background music was also very good, fitting well with the scenes yet not drowning out the voices (although sometimes you wished it did). Most importantly, the game is a good value. You will get many hours of gameplay with very little of it being fluff. The puzzles actually require quite a bit of thinking, which may frustrate you, but just like any puzzle, once you solve it (or Google the solution), you will be very pleased with (or kicking) yourself.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is a pretty well-made point-and-click adventure game. It won’t be winning any game of the year awards any time soon, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have a good time in it. Unfortunately, there were some bizarre design choices made, such as the way subtitles worked, and the odd bug that hindered the experience. However, if you don’t mind point-and-click games, like solving some interesting puzzles, some quirky comedy thrown in or even if you just wanted a graphic adventure game experience that is neither awful nor a remake or remaster of a game from a bygone era, then there really aren’t many better alternatives than The Book of Unwritten Tales 2.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2
- Available On: PC
- Published By: Nordic Games
- Developed By: KING Art
- Genre: Point and Click Adventure
- US Release Date: February 17th, 2015
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is a pretty well-made point-and-click adventure game. Unfortunately, there were some bizarre design choices made and the odd bug that hinder the experience. However, if you don't mind point-and-click games, like solving some interesting puzzles and some quirky comedy thrown in, there aren't many better alternatives than The Book of Unwritten Tales 2."
- Many interesting puzzles to solve
- Pretty visuals that blend the characters and the background well
- Great background music
- Subtitles are incredibly distracting
- English lip-sync is awful
- Odd character path-finding