The Book of Unwritten Tales 2
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is the latest point-and-click adventure from KING Art Games. It picks up about a year after the events from The Book of Unwritten Tales (which was released in North America in 2012). Wilbur the gnome mage is trying to teach magic in Seastone, Ivo the elven princess is trying to avoid an arranged marriage in Elfburrow, and Nate the human pirate and Critter the cookie-monster-shaped space alien are trying to steal a magical compass on the flying island of Tugator. That is, not much has changed.
As the game opens up, Wilbur’s wand starts doing strange things, and before long Seastone finds itself transformed into a sickly sweet version of Candyland. Worse, Alastair the Arch-Mage is transformed into a frog, and so that leaves it up to Wilbur — plus Ivo, Nate and Critter as well once their stories intersect — to figure out what’s going on and put a stop to it. This process involves the heroes traveling through time, mixing drinks, and dealing with zombies, vampires and were-rats, just like you’d expect.
The engine for The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 looks to be about the same as the ones used by the other KING Art adventures, where you do just about everything with the mouse. You left click to move your character and perform the default action on hotspots (such as talking to people or picking up objects), and you right click to examine things. To use an inventory item, you have to click on the backpack in the lower right-hand corner of the interface (which opens it up) and then click on the object you want to use. If you get stuck, then you can also press the spacebar to see all of the hotspots for the current scene. If you have any experience with adventures, then you shouldn’t have any trouble picking up the game and jumping right in.
The puzzles in The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 are mostly inventory-based, where you have to pick up inventory items and then figure out how to use them. These puzzles are generally straightforward, just because the game doesn’t include many red herrings. If you examine a hotspot and it remains a hotspot, then there’s about a 90% chance it’s involved in some puzzle, and you just have to figure out which one.
Along with the inventory puzzles, you also have to do things like play a board game against a mummy, flip switches and shovel coal to start an engine, and shake a drink just right to prepare it properly. There are also times when you have multiple characters under you control, and you have to figure out how they can work together to solve a puzzle. As an example, at one point you end up in a pyramid, and Ivo and Critter have to pull levers so Nate can open a door.
The nice thing about the game’s puzzles is that when you reach a new act, you’re almost always introduced to several puzzles at once. That means while the puzzles aren’t especially complicated, there are usually enough possibilities that they’re not trivially easy, either. During the 30 hours I spent with the game, I had to consult a walkthrough a handful of times, and even with the puzzles I solved on my own, it frequently took me a while to put them together. So The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 has a comfortable difficulty, where the puzzles aren’t too easy or too difficult.
As you might have gleaned from reading the preceding paragraphs, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 isn’t an especially serious adventure. Some of the sequences are pretty funny, like when Wilbur goes back in time and the game’s graphics go with him, or when Ivo buys a hippogriff and it ends up being more hippo than griff. But most of the time the game is merely pleasant, and I mean that as both a compliment and an insult, much in the same way you might hear that your prospective blind date has a good personality. All of the characters and situations in the game are nice to a fault — even Nate has succumbed — and everything is so pleasant that the storyline doesn’t deliver much of an emotional impact.
That being said, the main issue with the game is its length. When I reviewed The Book of Unwritten Tales, I complained a little that it took me 18 hours to complete, but The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is almost twice as long as that, which is just excessive. I guess you could look at the length and say that The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is three times longer and thus three times better than the average adventure, but I equate it more with watching a six-hour movie, which nobody wants to do.
The problem is that KING Art Games overwrites everything. They give you the life story of every character and object in the game — for example, at one point Ivo examines the sky and delivers a 62-word monologue — and they need to learn to pare things down a little, to improve the pace of the game if for no other reason. Adventures are more fun when you’re actively trying to solve puzzles rather than passively listening to characters talk to each other, especially when those conversations go on and on and don’t really lead to anything.
But overall, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is a nice adventure. It’s friendly and it’s colorful and its puzzles are of moderate difficulty. You know a game can’t be too bad if the worst things a reviewer says about it are that it’s too nice and too long — which some people might not even consider to be negatives at all — and so it’s a worthwhile game to pick up.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Nordic Games
This review is based on a digital copy of The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 for the PC provided by Nordic Games.