Game: The Book of Unwritten Tales 2
Developer: KING Art
Publisher: Nordic Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, and Linux
Reviewed on Mac
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Point-and-click adventures are in the midst of a renaissance, what with Telltale Games’ trending releases. One might argue their style is far more focused on the cinematic aspect of storytelling and less on puzzle-solving. But there are developers, like KING Art, who still practice the “old ways” — the tried-and-true methodology of classic adventure games is still alive and well with releases like The Book of Unwritten Tales 2. The original was seen as a breath of fresh air in a genre dominated by titles favoring a modernized approach, and featured classic environmental interaction, puzzles, and a grandiose narrative that defined the genre before its fall in the late 1990’s.
Tales 2 doesn’t improve much in the way of mechanics nor does it approach puzzle challenges differently. However, it does make great strides forward when it comes to presentation. Whereas the previous title used pre-rendered backgrounds, KING Art took a more dynamic approach by rendering the environment in real-time. Players who work their way through the detailed scenery will find numerous objects to interact with (which can be highlighted temporarily by pressing the space-bar) complete with interesting camera angles. The artistic direction is top-notch in Tales 2, replete with all the trappings one would expect of classic high fantasy. A color palette that doesn’t consist of gray and brown in a landscape full of similarly hued shooters? That’s a welcome sight. Expressive and articulated character models throughout game? Yes, please.
The story features the same cast of memorable characters for the original incarnation. Newcomers to the series will be introduced immediately to Nate: a bit of Han Solo mixed with a lovable buffoon and, from moment one, is clearly in need of some assistance. He plummets from the Sky-Island of his nemesis, the Red Pirate and hopes a depressed genie might bail him out of it. He is, as always, accompanied by his faithful and decidedly Muppet-esque companion, Critter. The events of the first Tales game resulted in a burgeoning romance between Nate and the Elven princess, Ivo. Things have changed drastically, though, and the split between the two has sent Nate into a tailspin. The aforementioned princess has been stuck at home since then, beneath her mother’s thumb and awaiting an arranged marriage. The quirky and interesting Wilbur Weathervane, a Gnomish mage with a heart that belongs to the world, has taken up a teaching position at the recently opened School of Wizardry and Witchcraft in Seastone. He longs for adventure though and wants to take to the roads of Aventásia once again. These four characters will encounter all sorts of interesting NPCs and scenarios along the way.
One of the most significant features carried over from the original is switching between multiple characters on the fly. Switching between characters makes for some truly interesting puzzle mechanics that, much like the prior game, feature puzzles that run parallel to each other. The fluid movement between the paths characters are taking and, in many instances, making use of certain characters in particular segments adds a necessary wrinkle to the puzzle-solving system that makes Book of Unwritten Tales 2 stand out from the adventure game crowd.
For the most part, puzzles are fairly straightforward though there are definitely more than few that require considerable effort to crack. Those familiar with the Telltale style are likely to have some serious trouble with these puzzles though seasoned genre veterans shouldn’t have too much issue. Tales 2, much like DoubleFine’s recently resurrected Grim Fandango, doesn’t hold the player’s hand, but it is never unfair.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 features a classic story of high adventure, heroism and genre familiarity that mixes in plenty of the series’ referential humor. Allusions ranging from Minecraft, World of Warcraft, and even the iPad are made. There also some great tributes paid to Super Mario Bros. and other classics that mostly hit the mark. The jokes come at a good pace and never feel overbearing. One of the newer features to make its way into the game are side-quests that have more puzzles and dialog to experience. Achievements and alternate costumes can be acquired via optional side-quests and help to inflate the game’s replay value. The game already runs about 20-22 hours in length and completing side-quests will net players about 25 hours when all is said and done.
There have been numerous reports of players encountering bugs ranging from items that are unclickable to complete crashes but the development team has been diligent in dishing out hot fixes. I had a relatively pain-free experience aside from small issues. Bugs aside, only minor problems hold the title back from being a true adventure game classic. The environments, as lovely as they are, tend to become stagnant as there are sequences that simply last far too long. The humor is hit-and-miss at times — when a joke bombs, it really bombs.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 won’t convince the uninitiated to partake, but for those well-versed in adventure games this will assuredly be one of the better releases of the year. KING Art’s sequel delivers more of the same wit, scale, and genre magic that the original did, all contained in a much better-looking package. The multi-character puzzle-solving mechanic still works just as well as it did before, and the introduction of side-quests adds a needed bit of replay value to the game. Small issues aside, Tales 2 will stand tall as one of the best point-and-click adventure games to come out in 2015.