The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles Review
The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles is a prequel to the point-and-click adventure The Book of Unwritten Tales, which was originally released in Europe in 2009, but which didn’t appear in North America until much later (it didn’t appear on Steam until July of this year). Critter Chronicles focuses on the background of Nate Bonnett, a Han Solo type rogue who can usually be persuaded to do the right thing although he’d prefer to just take care of himself. The game explains how he met and befriended the critter named Critter, and how he came to be chased by the angry orc bounty hunter Ma’Zaz.
As Critter Chronicles opens up, you’re controlling Nate on a stolen airship, and Ma’Zaz is in pursuit. After some close calls and witty banter, you manage to throw Ma’Zaz off your track — just in time to ram into a flying iceberg and crash land into the icy northlands of Aventasia. There you meet Critter (who is apparently some sort of space alien), and you continue to dodge Ma’Zaz while also attempting to foil a plot by the giant frog Munkus, who is one of the main bad guys in The Book of Unwritten Tales.
Critter Chronicles uses an engine nearly identical to the one employed by The Book of Unwritten Tales (the press release for the game lists some changes to the graphics engine, but I couldn’t tell the difference). That means everything is controlled through pointing and clicking. You left click to move your character around, you left click to pick up and use objects, and you right click to examine objects. You can also left click on a character portrait to choose the character you want to control (Nate or Critter), and you can push the spacebar to display the hotspots for the room you’re in. The interface is easy to use and doesn’t require much in the way of explanation, and so it’s easy to start playing the game.
Most of the puzzles in Critter Chronicles involve picking up and using inventory objects. Sometimes these puzzles are easy because they’re sensible, and other times they’re difficult because they’re not. For example, at one point you have to give some yarn to a woman, who then knits you a sock, which you then hang on a fireplace, where Santa Claus then gives you a gift. If the game had hinted that the woman was a knitter or that Santa was in the area, then these puzzles would be fine, but since it didn’t, the puzzles instead feel a little bit random. There are also a couple of mechanical puzzles, where you have to press buttons or rotate wheels, and a paint-by-numbers puzzle, where you’re allowed to get artistic. In other words, there is a nice variety to the puzzles, and chances are, you’re going to find some of them easy and get stumped by some others.
New in the game is a pair of difficulty settings. The default is “Normal.” Under that setting, Critter Chronicles is about as difficult as The Book of Unwritten Tales, which means it’s not especially difficult. But then there’s also the “Hard” setting, where there are extra puzzles and fewer hints (and the spacebar starts out disabled). I played on “Hard,” and while I cruised through The Book of Unwritten Tales without any problems, I got stuck a couple of times in Critter Chronicles, and if there had been any walkthroughs available, then I probably would have consulted one. But as it was, I ended up kicking around the puzzles for a while, and eventually I figured them out. Just like The Book of Unwritten Tales, Critter Chronicles doesn’t have that many inventory objects or places to use them, and so if you get stuck, then you can figure out most of the puzzles just by exhausting all of the possibilities.
The best part of Critter Chronicles is the humor. Nate is given lots of good lines as he’s put into some odd situations, and Critter is usually funny to watch as he tries to communicate what he’s thinking (since he doesn’t speak English). You also meet a schizophrenic yeti, have to deal with a talking airship (who doesn’t think much of Nate as a captain), and explore an Escher-esque wizard’s tower, where sometimes upside down is really upside up, and vice versa. Better yet, all of the voice actors are back from The Book of Unwritten Tales, and so once again the voice acting in the game is top notch.
Critter Chronicles took me about a dozen hours to complete, and I consistently found it to be enjoyable during that time. The puzzles work well and are sometimes challenging (at least on “Hard;” I didn’t try “Normal”), the writing is amusing enough that the game is entertaining to watch as well as play, and the voice acting is once again terrific. At a suggested retail price of only $20, Critter Chronicles is an easy game to recommend.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Nordic Games
This review is based on a digital copy of The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles for the PC provided by Nordic Games.