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Book of Unwritten Tales 2 review: Consumer of worlds, champion of point-and-click adventures

Hayden Dingman | Feb. 23, 2015
I didn't play the first Book of Unwritten Tales, which I'm now realizing was a mistake. I heard it mentioned a few times at release--mostly in the context of "There's this great point-and-click that came out!"--but never got around to playing it.

I didn't play the first Book of Unwritten Tales, which I'm now realizing was a mistake. I heard it mentioned a few times at release — mostly in the context of "There's this great point-and-click that came out!" — but never got around to playing it.

If it's anywhere near the quality of Book of Unwritten Tales 2, then shame on me.

Tell me another story

Made by King ART (the same studio that developed the charming-albeit-technically-flawed The Raven), Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is a traditional point-and-click adventure set in a fantasy world made entirely of tropes. Wizardy Dumbledore character? Check. Elf princess? Dashing pirate lead? Gnomes? Zombies? Forces of immeasurable evil? A robot that looks like Wall-E? Check, check, check.

We can run down the entire checklist if you'd like. Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is a game made up of cultural appropriation as much as it's a world of its own. Some dude who hated puns once said they're the "lowest form of wit," but he clearly never experienced the cultural miasma that is reference humor. As if by simply pointing at an object appropriated from some other story automatically makes it funny. "Remember this?" asks many storytellers, mistaking the warm thrill of nostalgia for genuine amusement.

Starting Book of Unwritten Tales 2, I was immediately wary. "Oh great, here's a room with a Companion Cube and a Minecraft sword and something that looks vaguely like Sully from Monsters, Inc." It's a pattern I've seen repeated a fair number of times lately, as with the incessant parade of geekery in Randal's Monday.

And it's normally contrived as hell. I guess that's what sets Book of Unwritten Tales 2 apart from some other recent games for me: It contextualizes its references better than most. Apart from a few obvious throwaways like the aforementioned room, Book of Unwritten Tales 2 feels like a world where this stuff makes sense — a world itself made up of the stories we know and love.

That doesn't mean it always lands. There are a few too many fourth-wall breaking moments, and it does that same thing I've been complaining about for months now: It makes fun of its own mechanical failings. Paraphrasing here, but a character will say something like, "Why do I have to jump through all these complicated hoops to get an item? Why can't you just give it to me?" with the implication that the designer is "in on the joke." I still maintain that this type of lampshading is lazy design, and it's really starting to grate now that I've seen it pop up in Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell, Dying Light, and now this in just the last two months alone.

 

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