The Book of Unwritten Tales review
The Good: Fantastic script; witty humour; engaging and memorable leads and supporting cast; superlative art and animation; nostalgia-inducing soundtrack; excellent voice acting; many hours of rational, entertaining gameplay.
The Bad: Abrupt end without climactic final confrontation; some minor visual and sound glitches.
Our Verdict: It took a while to be told, but The Book of Unwritten Tales holds an epic adventure between its pages, bringing to life a gorgeous, multi-dimensional, quest-laden world of glittering seas and fiery mountains, and filling it with some of the most endearing game characters of all time.

We have waited literally years for the English version of KING Art Games' The Book of Unwritten Tales. Now it's here, and YES, the heroics match the hype! A spoof/tribute to popular fantasy works, this game returns us to the heyday of 'questing' in an epic adventure over the course of 15-20 hours. The action shifts from the modest village of Seastone to a lost island to the mother of all villains’ dusty badlands domain, even as it forges an unexpected alliance of four unlikely heroes who must set aside their personal agendas and prejudices to work together for the greater good. Yet the tale is always simple enough to follow, focusing on characters and solving a dragon's loot worth of puzzles, regaling players with line after cheeky line delivered with impeccable wit along the way. The vibrant canvas of warmly-familiar locales is exquisite, the music frequently heaps on the nostalgia, hundreds of little animations and sound effects bring the surreal world to life, and all characters are endowed with unique and memorable personalities, investing you as deeply in their pedestrian concerns as in the big picture. There aren’t hours of clueless wandering masquerading as 'play time' either, as the quests flow seamlessly from one to the next, challenging but never frustrating. Though a slightly-abrupt finale sets up for a sequel instead of tightly closing the case, you’re nevertheless sure to be entertained for many hours by this attractive, funny game and its charming cast.

A prelude segment involving the elven Princess Ivo trying to rescue Yoda-esque gremlin Mortimer MacGuffin is designed as a gameplay tutorial, easing into the story without an overload of exposition. We get the point quickly: a book with the location of the Artefact of Divine Power – an amulet that gives its possessors all that they desire – and a special ring must be delivered to the Arch-Mage in Seastone. While Ivo manages the book, the responsibility of the ring falls on young gnome Wilbur Weathervane, who's interning as a bus-boy in a dwarven pub and nursing a secret ambition to become a mage. Wilbur's momentous trip to Seastone, his first to a human settlement, starts the adventure in earnest. After many quests that showcase his super-adaptability, he earns a Mage Diploma and finally crosses paths with Ivo, along with the awesome twosome of Nate and Critter, a shady airship pilot and his pet who are held hostage by heavy-duty orcish bounty hunter Ma'Zaz for assorted contract violations. Circumstantially thrust together, but also united as a team committed to the good fight, the fantastic four leave no doors shut and no stones unturned in the race to retrieve the amulet before the evil Shadow Army.

If that sounds familiar, it's because it is. The unwritten tale is oft-told but evergreen, and it's with joy, not disdain, that you embrace its concepts and characters. Nate is a rakish mix of Han Solo and Guybrush Threepwood – he talks like the former, dresses like the latter, and swaggers like both. At the outset, he is all about gold, not glory, but is persuaded to cooperate by the no-nonsense Ivo. Elegant and arrogant, she pointedly (and repeatedly) rebuffs Nate's chauvinistic advances, but is friendly and protective towards Wilbur, though she tempers her affection with brusqueness. The little gnome is the biggest surprise: wide-eyed yet practical (when he sees a floating houseplant, his first thought is how easy it'd be to clean around it), Wilbur steals the show with his innocence, loyalty and fierce determination in the face of tremendous odds, and brings on the big laughs with his literalness – his consternation at the 'hairy demon' in the backroom of a tavern is absolutely hilarious. As for Critter, it's a revelation how a perky purple plushie is a perfect replica of a seven foot tall cranky Wookiee. All are playable at times, and each protagonist has strengths and weaknesses that can create or resolve problems accordingly. Nate is strong and unapologetically unscrupulous (it's vicariously amusing to watch him con some cons), while straight-laced Wilbur can set traps, crawl into cramped places, and crack technical manuals. Ivo is sexy, but she prefers to utilize her intelligence and agility instead.

Fortunately, the developers didn’t sit back after casting their leads; each supporting character is fleshed out with backstories that explain their current circumstances and behaviour. Some excellent cameos include Munkus the assistant villain, Wilbur's ex-military ("Call me Colonel!") grandfather who preps him for his trip to Seastone, a rag-tag mummy in MacGuffin's study, a helpful supervillain titled the 'King of Thieves', a two-headed ogre with a literally split personality, a pansy paladin in pink, a judicious orcish Chieftain, a doped-out bull shaman named 'The Rainmaker', and Ma'Zaz, who has more game than Boba Fett himself. This motley crew sprinkles a unique charisma on the game and adds considerable emotional depth to it; you'll find yourself actually caring about some of them, and missing all of them sooner or later.

The adventure is spaced over five lengthy, multi-part chapters. Each screen has several hotspots, some necessary, others simply adding ambience. Each hotspot has a basic level of explanation and a second that’s more detailed. The space bar reveals all available hotspots, and exhausted objects become inactive after use. The inventory is accessed by rolling the mouse over the bottom edge of the screen. Items can be combined, and though you can’t always tell what combinations will work, a visual cursor cue easily eliminates many that will not, both in the inventory and the natural environments, avoiding many unnecessary clicks. Objects and areas are activated based on quests, making it important to revisit scenes to check for new leads, though that isn't as cumbersome as it sounds since your agenda is always reasonably clear. And whenever a chapter requires extensive exploration, a map is provided which allows teleportation between all active locations. Characters don't run, but except for the sauntering Nate, they move quickly enough to not hold up proceedings, and double-clicking exits fades immediately to the next area. The game clocks the hours played, provides unlimited save slots, and like its RPG inspirations, even has an auto-save that resumes from the point of your last activity in case of an unexpected end.

Usually the leads have to collect items by hook or crook, then use them elsewhere to solve problems. Objects can't be combined without explicit reason, however, even if you get the pairing correct by trial-and-error. The overall flow of the game is fairly linear, with one to three active objectives at any point, but the relentless flow of quests keeps you constantly busy – there is always something to do. The to-do lists, despite the oddity of the items involved, are extremely rational, which may make them appear less challenging than they actually are, because great care has been taken to not frustrate with mindlessly zany obstacles. A handful of discrete puzzles are attached to inventory- and dialogue-based quests as well. A Wheel of Fortune guessing game is especially intricate, given the way its colours must be deduced. A dancing minigame has you pounding the keyboard while Nate does the Macarena onscreen and may take a while to master, while a devilish potion-making puzzle is sure to create quite a stir. Some tasks require dialogue to be chosen correctly, which can be solved by guesswork, but are more fun to logically work out.

Midway through the game, the protagonists begin to be grouped into teams of two or three on occasion. You control the characters simultaneously on such occasions, switching between them by clicking their onscreen icons. This adds complexity to the gameplay, since you must now choose the character best suited to handle a particular situation. Partnered characters can give each other inventory items and advice, and the rotation of quests between them is clever and continuous, though most impressive are the moments when they come together as a team to perform a single dramatic task.

Continued on the next page...



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Game Info

The Book of Unwritten Tales

Platform:
PC, Linux

Genre:
Fantasy

Developer:
KING Art Games


Game Page »

United Kingdom October 28 2011 Lace Mamba Global

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User Score

Average based on 41 ratings

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User Reviews

Posted by Houie on Nov 24, 2013

One of the best modern day adventure games.

Great Length. Great Humor. Amazing visuals. Amazing voice acting. Great, touching story that invokes sympathy and suspense. Very very good... Read the review »

Posted by Antrax on Jan 28, 2013

The worst thing I can say is that it could've been even better

"The Book of Unwritten Tales" is an unashamedly old-school point and click game. While visually it's anything but retro, other aspects of... Read the review »



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Shuva Raha
Staff Writer

Comments

cbman
Oct 29, 2011

If the word ‘nostalgia’ is used even once in a game’s ‘pros’ then the review is invalidated IMO.

tastebud
Oct 29, 2011

awesome, im glad that this game apparently got a good international english version. i already played the original when it came out in germany, but i hope itll make a decent showing internationally as well at retail.
nice review

scribly
Oct 29, 2011

I’ll buy it when the sequel comes out

Iznogood Iznogood
Oct 30, 2011

I have only played it for a short time, but so far i love it.
This is one of the best adventure games in a long time!

PCFAN2014 PCFAN2014
Oct 30, 2011

Is there a way to whatch the cutscenes of the game with subtitles? there are only subtitles in game,that would be a shame,especially for hearing- impaired

aimless
Nov 1, 2011

Hastily half-baked animations?  You’re a lot pickier than I am;  I thought the animations in the demo were beautiful.

As for the box being available in the US, mine shipped today from Interactcd.com.

gamrgrl gamrgrl
Nov 1, 2011

@pcfan2012: There are no subtitles for the cutscenes. There is only one option in the menu, and that turns in-game subtitles either on or off. However, except for the starting and concluding cutscenes, the rest are basically action interludes, and none contain dialogue essential to completing the game. It’s definitely a shortcoming, but shouldn’t pose difficulty even for the hearing impaired as far as actual gameplay is concerned.

aimless
Nov 1, 2011

Don’t worry about Interact, Dr.Frankenstein.  Dave gives great service.  No need to play BOUT with your fingers crossed.  Okay, I understand now where you’re coming from.  I may think the first scene could…er, use some improvement, too, when I see it.  But I can’t wait to play the game, as good as the demo was.

PCFAN2014 PCFAN2014
Nov 1, 2011

@gamrgrl Thank you so much for your comment!

Oscar Oscar
Nov 4, 2011

Well, I’m almost finished and I must say I think 4.5 stars is too high. It is a beautiful game and lots of work went into it, but the quality in the puzzles, dialogue and plot isn’t there. The plot is a blatant LOTR rip-off/parody (i’m not sure which, possibly both), dialogue tends to drag and gets awfully tedious especially the chapter with Han Solo getting the weapons and armour, and the puzzles - er, what puzzles? Getting hairs from the paladin by asking him to brush his hair and then asking him for his comb? That isn’t a puzzle. The length isn’t a positive when they’ve clearly stretched out the plot by adding superfluous tasks, and it feels bloated as a result. It’s an enjoyable game and there are some charming moments and nice music, but considering Curse of Monkey Island got 3.5 stars I would only give this a 3.

ghettodoghammer
Nov 20, 2011

I guess you guys grade on a curve, so yeah, the game is very good in that regard, at least compared to what else is out there. But in no way does it compare to the golden age, but it is fairly good.

adipocere adipocere
Nov 20, 2011

So this is one of my few forays into what I collectively refer to as “cute animation” ag’s. I read the review here and decided to give it a shot and I absolutely love it!  I really don’t understand what the fuss is about the cut scenes, they don’t last long and it’s not like somebody doodled them in ms Paint.
The game is beautiful, the dialogue is really very good and entertaining. And, IMO, the puzzles in the game might require a little bit of footwork but each step of a puzzle is rewarding because its integrated into the game play. In general, each completed step triggers an event…unlike the big nasty puzzles that you spend an hour trying to figure out how to open a door using a string, a toothpick, and a map of ancient runes…all the while staring hatefully at the crowbar in your inventory.
@Oscar - the game is a complete parody of fantasy pop culture. Not just LOTR. It also make’s it pretty obvious on the package. There are references to LOTR, WoW, aspects of Dnd and various Disney movies/characters, a ton of popular movies and probably a lot of stuff that I’ve missed so far. It’s intentionally obvious, and there are tons of them hidden in like little inside jokes. 

Crunchy in milk Crunchy in milk
Nov 21, 2011

I found the humor in this hit the mark far more often and to greater effect than many golden age classics. There are a couple of puzzles that hit below the belt though, notably the potion creation and the dance routine.

Nate’s chapter really does drag, I agree but not enough to take the whole adventure down with it.  I think the problem mostly lies with the english VA for Nate who seems to be phoning it in, the NPCs in his dedicated chapter including even the talking shield, sword and helmet are more engaging.

Iznogood Iznogood
Nov 22, 2011

I finished the game a while ago so i thougt i should elaborate my previous comment.

IMO this realy is one of the best adventure games in a long time. And it can easily be compared to some of the best games of the so called golden age.

The humor is funny and had me lol several times, it has a lot of references to different movies, games and books, mainly and most obvious to Star Wars but also to Diskworld, LOTR and WoW and to a lesser degree to Monkey Island, James Bond, Indiana Jones and many others. (I even think i found some to Simon the Sorcerer).

The best part is however that it doesn’t really matter if you get all these reference, or if you have never heard of Star Wars, Diskworld or LOTR , the script is still very funny on its own.

How anyone can think this is a rip-off or parody of LOTR is beyond my understanding, especially since the main references is to Star Wars and not LOTR.

The puzzles are all logical and integrated into the story, and you are never uncertain of what you have to achive even if you don’t immediately know how to achive it. To some this migth make it fell like the puzzles are easy, but that is only because they are so logical and well integrated into the story.

The voice acting is also excelent, the graphics are fine, and the whole story and gamplay simply comes together much better that what we are used to.

Now i agree, there are some minor issues like the raindance, Nate’s character and the cutscenes that could be a little better, but all of this is only minor issues, that doesn’t really substract much from the overall experience.

TopoGigio TopoGigio
Nov 29, 2011

To be honest I am very disappointed, and really do not understand the high ratings almost everywhere. A great adventure game (longest journey, monkey island, syberia ....) consists of challenging and original puzzles, a storyline to remember… The only thing about this adventure game I would remember are the puzzles for little kids of 6 years old. With every puzzle I have solved I asked myself where I have spent my money, you have to combine every item you have with everything you see and you will solve the problem. Maybe I am too critical, but in my opinion this game is a miss.

DrFrankenstein DrFrankenstein
Dec 18, 2011

TBUT is indeed an excellent adventure game, albeit not without shortcomings. It is not in the same league as the genre classics like Monkey Island, TLJ, etc. Yet it does stand out on its own amongst the slew of so-so adventure titles of the later years. The story is reasonably engaging if one can accept its derivative nature and lack of ambition to break new grounds. The many pop-culture references are generally amusing although almost never too hilarious. The translation to Engish and the voice acting are competent. The writing is ok too, although occasionally it gets dull (for example the characters often recite the obvious such as: “the heat has melted the gold to a pool of ...”, which could have been highlighted indirectly through more amusing lines).

Some of the more noticeable shortcomings… The cut-scenes are mediocre. Nate is a rather annoying character. We are never shown the face of the main villain (the witch), only some general tentacles leaving us wondering. The animation of the dragon talking is done badly through sprites. The game resorts way too often to fade-throughs (“a few moments later…”) and off-screen action in moments where one would hope for some rewarding animation. There are some annoying 2D play sequences (the pixie mine, the island catacombs).The ending is rather anti-climactic and a shameless cliff-hanger.

On the positive side, the game looks great for most part and the sound/music editing is superb. Also there are some wonderful secondary characters (Critter, Death, Deamon monkey). For all the abundance of annoying fade-throughs and off-screen action, the game sometimes delivers some excellent character animations (Ivo freeing herself from the chains, Nate’s warrior contest, etc). The puzzle logic is fair for the most part, if not a bit too casual.

The bottom line is, TBUT is a great game well worth the money. At 4.5 AG stars it’s a bit overrated. It is a solid 4-star game in my book.

cashif
Dec 19, 2011

@oscar: totally agree with you.

a-maze a-maze
Jan 2, 2012

Finished playing it, and its enjoyable. It´s not that “memorable” as classics, but its truly well done in general terms.

It was funny in many parts, dialogues and scenes (parodying known games/movies) but sometimes backtracking and puzzles get a bit tedious (especially nate chapter with all the armor thing).

But i wasnt all immersed in the story, wasnt passionate about it, just followed the game to see where it leaded me… not that much content, but was ok to spend a funny brief time. I would recommend it, but wont sell it as the “best adventure of the last decade” at all.

Stuart Stuart
Mar 30, 2012

Personally I feel this is the best adventure game of what you could call the dark ages, since the 90s boom. It is long (for an AG), fun, interesting, and beautifully crafted with great visuals and sound (both the music and English voice acting). I absolutely loved this game and hope for more and more in this setting!



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