Wednesday 25 September, 2013
This is the best point-and-click adventure game I've ever played. Or at least that I can remember. I know I really enjoyed a lot of the Lucas Arts adventures like Full Throttle when I was a kid. Anyway, barring my childhood, this one takes the top spot. My expectations were much lower! I tend to have lukewarm experiences with point-and-clicks, generally finding them frustrating and too slow. I usually finish them with walkthroughs or watch on YouTube, but I always get sucked into buying another one because many have such great art (Machinarium, Botanicula, the latter of which I did very much enjoy). Anyway, I came off playing a few hours of Sanitarium the other day, which I got bored of and quit, and figured I'd give this a shot because I felt I hadn't sufficiently gotten enough pointing and clicking.
The Book of Unwritten Tales shines in the art department. The style is reminiscent of Monkey Island, but fantasy, but the details of the backgrounds are wonderful. The color palette is vivid. I found myself studying each and every room, not looking for interactable objects, but going over the skulls in the walls in the dungeons, the lava flow in the dragon's cave, relishing every detail I could. The sound was also very nice, with EXCELLENT voice acting. It was so nice because that's one thing that killed Sanitarium for me. The females, for whatever reason, were cast perfectly and sounded especially awesome. Most all characters have a British/European English accent, which was a good choice.
The game wasn't frustrating in the ways that so many of these games are for me. I rarely had to pixel hunt. If you press space bar, all interactable objects have an icon over them. SO USEFUL. I hate scouring backgrounds for items. This way I could see exactly what was in the room that I could interact with. Your controllable character would say something about each item that highlighted when you clicked on it. Usually you clicked on things once to fulfill the magnifying glass 'inspect' option, then if you could do something else to it, you could click again to fulfill another 'inspect' or a 'pick up' or a 'use' or whatever. It was really easy to combine objects in your inventory or to use inventory objects on another world object. The vast majority of puzzles made sense and followed David logic. I *hate* when point-and-clicks have weird logics, when I don't get puzzles and item combinations and uses because it's just some wacky thing I would never thing of. I can count the times this happened here on one hand. The last one I remember was you had to put a stick of dynamite in a trash heap. Another near the end of the game was to tie a string to a pom pom to distract an ogre. I never would have figured that out. Consequently, I turned to walkthroughs also less than the number of fingers on one hand, which felt really good! And one of those was when the 'inspect' option was missing off an object, so I didn't see it. Not my fault!
Another fantastic thing about the game was its use of humor. I feel that most games that try to be funny fall flat. This one resonated with me though, which was one thing I was worried not happening about before playing. It pokes fun at itself, yet takes itself seriously, pokes fun at adventure games, role-playing in general, and MMOs. The devs were definitely giant WoW players, as there are numerous references and jokes. There's one character who they use solely to make fun of WoW paladins. As a former WoW paladin myself, those were some of the funniest moments of the game. Let's see what I can remember...Upon meeting the paladin, your character asks: "So are you a strong warrior?" "No." "Ah, are you a wonderful healer?" "No." "So then you must be a paladin!" He also gets the paladin to cast buffs on him and the paladin BUBBLES and comments something about being invulnerable now, and then BUBBLE HEARTHS. It was awesome. There are tons of other references to other games, pop culture and so on. I remember specifically Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Terminator, Monkey Island, Mission Impossible, Back to the Future...there were probably 20 others that I caught and probably 20 more I didn't. It wasn't just a giant reference fest though; they were used cleverly and usually just in one quote or a little scene. The game does have a story. It is decent and ends abruptly though.
The real joy are all the characters, who were very well done. You actually get a little team together and get to switch characters and perspectives a fair amount. There are puzzles that you need all three characters to solve, and those parts (mostly Chapter 3) were really fun, and the most puzzly parts of the game. Otherwise, the puzzles tended to be very simple. Again, I appreciated this because I could focus on the humor and the characters instead of beating my head against something that I found illogical or overly difficult.
I'm really surprised by this game and definitely recommend it to point-and-click adventure fans and fantasy/RPG folks.