The Book of Unwritten Tales
The Book of Unwritten Tales (BOUT) is a colorful point-and-click adventure from German developer KING Art Games. It was released in Europe in 2009 and is now finally available in the United States. Sometimes when a text-heavy game like this is translated from one language to another, the results are sketchy at best, but KING Art took their time with BOUT. The dialogue is clean and well written, the references (including World of Warcraft, Mission Impossible, and even Apocalypse Now) should make sense to American players, and even the voice-acting is top notch. While BOUT has some issues, none of them have to do with sloppiness or a lack of polish.
BOUT takes place in the fantasy world of Aventasia, where the Alliance is currently at war with the Shadow Army. As the game opens up, a gremlin named MacGuffin discovers the location of the Artifact of Divine Fate, a talisman that can turn wishes into reality. But before MacGuffin can retrieve the artifact and hide it someplace safe, he’s captured by the Shadow Army, and that leaves it up to you playing as Wilbur the wannabe gnome mage, Ivo the wood elf princess, Nate the human airship captain, and Critter the, uh, critter (he looks sort of like a purple Cookie Monster) to decipher MacGuffin’s clues and eventually deliver the artifact to the good-hearted leader of the Alliance.
BOUT is played using a third-person perspective, where you move your characters from scene to scene. For most of the game you control one character at a time, but sometimes you have to use the skills of multiple characters (such as Critter being able to slide under locked doors) to solve a puzzle. As is the case with most point-and-click adventures, the interface for controlling your characters is simple: you left click to move a character and interact with objects, and you right click to examine things. You can also press the spacebar to see the hotspots for the current scene, and so pixel-hunting isn’t a major requirement for finishing the game.
The puzzles in BOUT are mostly inventory-based, where you pick up everything not nailed down and then figure out how these objects can be combined and used. These puzzles are generally pretty easy. BOUT follows the recent trend of adventures where there are almost no red herrings, and with the resulting limited number of objects and hotspots, it’s not too difficult to solve puzzles by trying all of the possible combinations — on the rare occasions when the solution isn’t immediately obvious. Ten years ago I had almost no chance of completing an adventure without consulting a walkthrough, but these days it’s just the opposite.
The best part of BOUT is the humor. There are lots of jokes and funny situations in the game — such as meeting a dragon who is studying a ten-step program to become more terrifying, and some shopkeepers playing an RPG that involves IRS auditors, the DMV and other “fantasy” elements — and they are all presented well. Helping out this aspect of the game is the fact that the voice actors all do a wonderful job. If their readings had been wooden, then BOUT would have been a chore to complete, but the actors are effective in delivering their lines and understanding the context of what they’re saying.
Unfortunately, BOUT overstays its welcome a little. Most adventures clock in at around 10-12 hours, but BOUT took me 18 hours to complete — and that’s without much time spent spinning my wheels trying to figure out puzzles. You’d think that longer would be better, but I liken BOUT to a (movie) comedy that drags on for two hours, when 90 minutes would have allowed it to maintain its momentum better. This issue with BOUT is most noticeable at the end, where there is a time traveling sequence and you see several puzzles twice. Generally speaking, seeing puzzles twice is once too many.
But overall, BOUT is a pleasant and enjoyable adventure game. It’s funny and well written, it’s colorful both in tone and appearance, and its voice acting is about as good as you’re going to hear in a game. On the downside, the puzzles aren’t especially complicated, and there are perhaps too many of them, but these aren’t serious detractions, and I don’t have any reservations recommending the game, especially at its $20 price point.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Nordic Games
This review is based on a digital copy of The Book of Unwritten Tales for the PC provided by Nordic Games.