[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]o I’m just going to be up front in stating that I’ve never played Book of Unwritten Tales 1. I briefly wondered if this would somehow prevent me from properly enjoying its sequel–but then I reasoned that any good story can be enjoyed at any point in its telling. Look at Star Wars for example. So with an open mind I plunged into this point-and-click adventure by KING Art Games. The project was funded on Kickstarter, blowing past its $65k goal for a whopping $171,593 total funds. This humorous tale is about an unlikely team of heroes (Wilbur, Ivo, Nate, and Critter) crossing paths once more to stop an evil from terrorizing the world…yeah it’s not exactly original when you boil it down like that, but I’m a sucker for these sorts of adventures. Did that mean I enjoyed the Book of Unwritten Tales 2? Allow me to be coy and just discuss a few things first.
First, the musical score–it’s amazing. It really is. Very good music that effectively galvanizes the emotions and atmosphere found within each scene. Next, the graphics and animation: Book of Unwritten Tales 2 features top notch backgrounds and character model designs, with fairly expressive and fluid animations that provide a cinematic shine…though not entirely perfect. When you look at the faces close up, you notice something odd about the way the features settle when showing expressions or speaking. Wilbur’s was perhaps the worst, with Nate following close behind. Ivo looked best out of the main characters. This issue became most noticeable during dialogue, and it kept distracting me during scenes. Your natural instinct is to look at a character’s face when they speak, and seeing their lips fail to even come close to what words they were saying bothered the heck out of me. I thought it was really inconsistent work given the other smooth and complex body animations.
As for the puzzles, they can be quite difficult to anyone not paying attention. Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is mostly made up of inventory puzzles, which can be a tricky thing, as it can be hard for a player to follow a game developer’s particular line of logic. KING Art did a great job, thankfully. All the solutions make sense, and when you attempt to execute one plausible solution to a predicament that is not correct, the game will helpfully explain why (in that particular instance) it would not work. It was also nice that KING Art eliminated the pixel-hunting issue by making it easy to locate objects of interest by holding down the space button. Puzzles can still be a challenge though and will certainly require a bit of thinking. Just to give you an idea of the difficulty: I got stuck for over an hour on the first area.
Adventure games face that particular challenge of requiring a good story for people to care about, and Book of Unwritten Tales 2 managed it with me, though I will admit, it took me a while. If you’ll remember from English Literature class, the protagonist of any story is the one fueling most of the forward motion in the plot. For Book of Unwritten Tales 2, that was Wilbur, the small gnome who wanted to be a mage. It took me sometime to warm up to Wilbur, and even when I finally did, I still preferred playing as either Ivo or Nate. The story has an appropriate antagonist (won’t say who for spoilers-sake) but I wished they’d had a stronger presence throughout the adventure. A lot of the time, you’re combating the evil actions of another, lesser evil force that serves as one big distraction from what’s really going on. I really dislike that kind of bait-and-switch. It’s a cheap way of heightening drama. BUT Book of Unwritten Tales 2 feels very much like a comedy of errors, so I suppose it’s in keeping with its humorous roots. If the game wasn’t funny, I doubt I would have been able to forgive it this tired plot mechanic.
Be prepared for a lot of content in this game. There’s an insane amount of game culture references to uncover, and they’re all pretty good, if at times heavy-handed. The jokes are fairly funny and will likely have you chuckling to yourself. There’s even sidequests you can complete.
So is Book of Unwritten Tales 2 worth your time? Of course it is! Though, I do recommend playing the first game if you can. That is perhaps the only thing I lament is that I lacked the history with the characters and setting that would have made the story all the more enjoyable for me. Still, even I can see this was a very, very good game!