The Book of Unwritten Tales – Review

Platform | Release Date
PC | July 31, 2012
Developed by King Art Games

The Pitch:

In a world torn by war, the aged gremlin archaeologist Mortimer MacGuffin harbours the dark secret of a powerful artefact. Whoever calls this artefact his own, will determine the fate of the world. While the Army of the Shadows sends out its best and most devious agents to discover the secret, the Alliance’s four heroes find themselves involuntarily drawn into the crisis…

When people think classic point-and-click adventure, they almost certainly bring to mind 2d sprite-based graphics. With the exception of 1998’s Grim Fandango, the shift to 3-dimensional characters and environments was a largely unsuccessful final grasp of a struggling genre. Had the audience stuck around to see what developers could have done next, they might have been pleasantly surprised. It took more than 10 years, but The Book of Unwritten Tales applies stunning visuals to a classic formula, and comes away a mostly charming realization of what could have been.

The Book of Unwritten Tales has had a long journey to America. Originally released 3 years ago in Germany, it got an English translation last year when it launched in the UK. Despite the occasional minor subtitling error, the game doesn’t feel like a translation. The humor, though predictable at times, rings true more often than not. Chock full of Tolkien, Star Wars, Discworld, and Monkey Island references, BoUT knows its roots and will play best to a gamer who shares this knowledge.

The story follows three unwilling adventurers as they are thrown headlong into a race against the forces of evil to find an artifact of unimaginable power. The vast majority of the game is played as one of the main heroes: Wilbur Weathervane (an industrious, if clumsy, gnome), Ivo (a cunning and curious forest elf), and Nate Bonnet (a self-centered human pirate). The game works best in these chapters, when allowed to focus on the world’s interaction with a single playable character. Later chapters require the player to switch off between characters to solve puzzles, but the story is largely put on hold to do so. That’s not an unforgivable sin for an adventure game, but it is doubly disappointing when these multi-character puzzles result in the old “try all my inventory on every item in the world” technique.

Make no mistake, the world is the star of this game. It’s a picturesque landscape brimming with magic (real and otherwise) and threatened by the decades-old fires of war. The inhabitants of this world are all larger than life. There is a drug-addled minotaur shaman, a bodiless skull named Gulliver atop a headless body named Esther, and even Death himself. In a genre that often breaks down to “find next character, learn what they want, find it, repeat”, nothing is more important than intriguing characters with interesting stories. Thankfully, BoUT is up to the task.

Though the target audience may be narrow, fanatics will find an adventure that reminiscent of the classics, even if it’s not destined to become one.

About Adam Bash

Adam Bash was the host of the Fall Damage podcast and is currently a contributor to Splitkick. He helps make the site do things.
Bookmark the permalink.