If you’ve ever aspired to brew coffee for a monkey, trick mummies with questions of underwear, or cheat death himself (in his swamp house while he’s wearing bunny-slippers no less), then The Book of Unwritten Tales is your perfect opportunity. This point and click adventure game was originally released for German audiences in 2009 from developers King Art Games in conjunction with HMH Interactive publishing. The English localization evolved after much buzz and success, and is now available for PC.
The story follows three heroes who were unwittingly drawn into the adventure to save a Gremlin Archaeologist and his world-changing discovery – something that could end the perpetual war and save everyone a lot of grief. Whatever IT is, the shadow army sent their best wizard to capture him: a clunky, mommy-berated being with a vendetta against his demon queen mother and a multitude of other personal issues. The game is divided into several chapters with different phases that allow you to play as a gnome, elf or human, each with a distinct story arch and personality.
The script is infinitely hilarious, and I’m glad to see nothing was lost in translation from this German game, save for a few mis-typed subtitles. Voice acting talent is also top notch. The UK company responsible for the voiceover deserves some high accolades. Every character has depth and some regional English flare.
The puzzles are of reasonable difficulty. They pose no threat to creative veterans of the point and click adventure genre, but for novices, the hint mode that reveals all the clickable locations via spacebar comes in handy. Certain quests were difficult to complete when the mouse motions didn’t register well, much to my frustration. The most agonizing part is waiting for a cutscene to repeat over and over again until you’re allowed to complete a puzzle you have already figured out.
Unwritten Tales’ most enchanting feature is the art. A visual compendium of 3D art over painted 2D backgrounds lends a unique, curated feel to the game that is rare in today’s engine-rendered gaming world.
Another important aspect of the game environment is the soundtrack. Benny Oschmann composed an amazingly lighthearted and comical score for the game, which is worth the purchase alone. All the sounds are very high quality, and your ears will thank you for the experience.
Some places where Unwritten Tales fell short were minor faults that couldn’t be helped. Lip syncing was not quite possible, and sometimes the character models looked unnatural when performing certain motions or facial expressions. The plot is nothing stellar, but the game served as an homage to past games and referenced many fantasy/sci-fi pop-culture giants, as promised. Game length and pacing leaned on my patience at times; I clocked in at 10 hours 42 minutes with a few regrets. If you do end up finishing the game, be sure to wait until the end of the credit reel.
Overall, I think the $29.99 price is not quite justified – the game itself was not as memorable or original as its forefathers, but it was an honest effort. I highly recommend trying the free demo from their website because it accurately serves as a preview for the remainder of the game.
Point and click adventures seemed to be a lost genre until Telltale entered the fray with Back to the Future, Jurassic Park and their recent game, The Walking Dead. However, unbeknownst to them, King Art, a small German company was working on a point and click of their very own. Entitled The Book of Unwritten Tales, it is a parody of everything from fantasy to sci-fi. It was released in Germany a few years ago and has seen a bountiful amount of praise since then.
Unwritten Tales follows the adventures of Wilbur Weathervane, a young gnome with grand fantasies in his head about becoming a master mage and going on heroic adventures. As soon as you can say convenient plot device, an old gremlin named MacGuffin, who looks suspiciously like Yoda, falls from the sky. He then gives our young hero a magical ring that could change the tide of the ongoing war between the Shadow Army and the Alliance. Wilbur is soon joined by Ivodora Eleonora Clarissa, an Elvish princess, and the smooth talking pirate, Nathaniel Bonnet.
Being a point and click adventure/parody, the writing is where the game needs to be at its finest, as that will substitute for the pointing/clicking gameplay. As you can tell from its title, it surpasses all expectations in this regard. Not only is the writing incredibly clever and funny but it features a wide variety of references from the obscure – a trading card called the Black Lokus – to the not so obscure, someone whistling a certain adventurous theme while swinging from a whip.
The game also constantly breaks the fourth wall with humorous results. Characters will often talk to the player with NPCs responding with things like “Why are you telling the wall your plan of attack?” It also takes friendly jabs at pesky RPG traditions like fetch quests and picking up every item you find. The humor is not restricted to mere references either. It also takes jabs at various development tropes such as taking part in pointless conversations to which your character will remark “This conversation had nothing to do with my current objective. Must be a localization bug…”
Like other point and click adventures, Unwritten Tales focuses on solving various brain teasers and puzzles. They start out simple enough, but the game throws you some curveballs. Occasionally, you’ll be in control of multiple characters and you’ll have to trade inventory items between them or have them perform tasks such as pressing switches simultaneously. This is a game that will force you to use your brain in ways you didn’t think possible and I highly recommend that you go through it without using any walkthroughs.
In my playthrough, which took approximately 12 hours, I only encountered one major bug. This bug halted me from progressing at all and I had to restart the entire game. However, I didn’t lose much time because it was easy to whiz past the puzzles since I already knew the solutions. Unfortunately, the game’s length is also its biggest flaw. While this is the standard length of most modern games, Unwritten Tales lacks any real incentive to go back and play again as there are no collectibles or bonus endings to find.
Where Unwritten Tales absolutely shines is its presentation. While the character models are a little on the jagged side, the 3D backdrops are absolutely gorgeous. There were times when I just sat there and took in the environments. The game doesn’t play around with the audio either. Everything from the voice acting to the ambiance and music is phenomenal. In particular, the game’s main theme sets a new standard for both parody and traditional themes alike.
While The Book of Unwritten Tales is a fantastic game, its lack of replay value really dampers the overall experience and the game breaking bug is a huge nuisance—one which will hopefully be fixed before the game’s official US release. Despite these drawbacks, I still highly recommend that you give this game a try. The gorgeous presentation, clever writing, and challenging puzzles all add up to a great experience that harkens back to olden days of the point and click adventure days. This is one new IP that you don’t want to miss.
The Book of Unwritten Tales was originally released on April 2nd, 2009 in Germany for PC, October 28th, 2011 in the UK, and will be released on July 31st, 2012 in the US.