Version Tested: Xbox One
Available On: PC, Mac, Xbox One, PS4
Developer: King Art Games
Genre: Point And Click Adventure
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is a trip down memory lane because I grew up playing these adventure games. It brings wonderful childhood memories flooding to the surface. The gameplay, the humor, the references, every second I spend within this world will evoke an unbelievable amount of nostalgia. The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 feels like spending a few days with an old school friend having not seen them for years. The game is a tribute to the classics but in doing this, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 at times lacks originality.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 feels like the true evolution of the old ‘Lucasarts’ adventure games. Monkey Island, Day of The Tentacle… If you’ve played and enjoyed them, you’ll love this. What you have here is a simple point and click adventure with plenty of puzzles, jokes and a constant breaking of the fourth wall. Movies, TV, and games are the ingredients for the story and when you season it with talking books, lovable characters, and magic, you have the recipe for a fun and playful world. Here, pigs can fly… or pink hippos to be exact.
Your journey will unfold in the hands of 4 protagonists. You have the sheltered and kind elf princess, Ivo; the good-natured, magical gnome Wilbur; the charming drunkard Nate and his sidekick Critter. All play the same, with the exception of Critter who speaks in jargon, and you’ll need to switch between them at times to complete puzzles later in the game. The four lead characters are all very likable and it’s nice to see the world from their perspectives. I found that time spent playing as each of the heroes is not shared evenly, though. Pacing issues arrive when you are stuck with a character for a long time and the character of Nate is criminally underused. If you have not played the original Book of Unwritten Tales, you might feel a bit distant from this company to begin with but by the end of your journey, you’ll be part of the gang.
I need to talk about the musical score throughout Book of Unwritten Tales 2 as it is mesmerizing. When the title screen begins, you’ll be greeted with a huge orchestral number which sounds like a John Williams piece. The music is empowering and really builds the hype leading into the game. The symphonies throughout sound epic and as iconic as the tunes from ‘Back To The Future’ and ‘Jurassic Park’. Even the pause menu welcomes you with a huge number. These wonderful melodies continue throughout the game and do a remarkable job of consistently setting the mood for each scene.
Graphically the game looks gorgeous. There are no photo realistic graphics here, just a simple yet elegant art style which would feel at home in an illustrated novel. Environments are varied and can be colorful or bleak depending on the location. You’ll witness an Elven palace not too dissimilar from Rivendell, with waterfalls and rainbows and then voyage to a Hogwarts-inspired magic school. Each setting has its own specific charm and when coupled with the ever changing music, these areas come to life.
Puzzles are littered throughout, which will be satirically mentioned within the game, and they are all inventive and rewarding once completed. You are even greeted with a small fanfare after each step. The majority of the puzzles make sense, but you do occasionally stumble across sections where logic fails you. A hint system would have been well received here, even just a subtle one, but none exists. Occasionally I would find myself attempting to combine every item in my inventory or throwing everything I possessed at the surroundings. This would result in my progression, but I felt it was a cheap way of advancing through the game. My advice to new players is to check everything twice as The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 has a peculiar habit of not telling you everything upon the first examination.
The writing and situational comedy made the old adventure games great and these are the pillars of The Book of Unwritten Tales 2. The dialogue is great, the voice acting is varied; delivered with comic timing and some of the positions you find yourself in are crazy. It’s nice to see King Art Games pay tribute to their inspirations and fandom. In one location, I saw references to Monsters Inc, Minecraft, Game of Thrones, Final Fantasy, and The MCU. You will hear quotes from Star Wars and The Matrix and if you think this stuff is too nerdy for you, there are mentions anyone might get. I love the TV show Scrubs and it blew my mind when I stumbled across a janitor reference! My favorite moment in the game is when you time travel and the graphics revert to 8-bit sprites, even the audio is removed. Embracing this history is wonderful and I would challenge myself to try and pick out as many references as I could find. As brilliant as these nods are, I feel the developers have slightly drowned the originality of their game with all of the callbacks. The actual story is pretty bland, the antagonists are weak and the pacing of the game at times can be slow. The game took me over 20 hours to complete and it was not until the final third where my actions seemed to gather momentum. I was entertained throughout, but I fear others may not be hooked from the get go.
As much as I adore this game, I’m confused who the target audience is. The puzzles can be fairly tough to work out and children would really struggle to solve them. The older generations, such as me, will really appreciate the lore here, but sometimes the dialogue is a bit infantile and simplistic. The jokes are great and occasionally even adult themed and this is when the humor succeeds. I had a smile on my face throughout my adventure but rarely laughed out loud. I felt that the developers should have embraced the older players and been a bit more risque with their content.
For me, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is the adventure game I’ve wanted for years. Others, such as Telltale Games, have tried to capture the genre, but no one nails it like King Art Games. It is lovely to see the developer’s inspirations on screen and they have paid tribute to them in creative and respectful ways. I finished the game grinning and felt like a kid again. I really hope people take their time to play this game because I want to see what King Art Games can do next.
An Englishman living in Australia. I edit and provide video/written reviews for all of the latest games.