The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

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Bacardi Jim
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The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby Bacardi Jim » Thu Nov 17, 2011 1:31 pm

Typically, I begin a review with a little background about the game, discussing its pedigree and resume. I'm going to eschew that here and start with this: BUY THIS GAME!

The Book of Unwritten Tales (henceforth abbreviated BoUT) is a classic point-and-click fantasy adventure game, harkening back to the glory days of LucasArts in its humor and gameplay, but decidedly 21st Century in its graphical style. Published by Germany's King Art Games back in 2009, the game was a huge hit in Europe, and when word grew of an English language version, many of us were on the edge of our seat. Of course, there were doubts: Will the notorious German humor translate well to the Americas? How will the English voice acting stand up? Will Americans "get it?" I can absolutely assure you that any pre-release doubts were unwarranted. The American release of BoUT is not just the best game I've played this year, but the best game I've played in many years.

The actual storyline is a pastiche of familiar bits. The main character is a gnome named Wilbur Weathervane who inadvertently finds himself entrusted with delivering a Ring of Power to an arch-mage for its safekeeping. Wilbur is part Frodo Baggins, part Willow, part Rincewind and part Luke Skywalker. Along the way, Wilbur collects a couple of compatriots: a female elf adventurer (who has her own avian sidekick) and a renegade smuggler/conman with his own dirigible who is almost-but-not-completely unlike Han Solo. Together, the three of you must end the eternal war between Orcs and Humanity, put paid to the bounty hunters, make Wilbur a mage and travel through time. Yes, we've done all these things before, or seen them all done in movies. But the charm of the game is that it knows we've done or seen all this before, and makes hilarious jokes about it. From the beginning, BoUT is crammed full of jokes referencing classic games and movies. And the jokes work. I may have laughed more at this game than I did at any single Monkey Island game, and not just because of all the Monkey Island references BoUT contains. There are numerous "in-jokes" to all the LucasArts greats, as well as dozens of other great classic games and a bunch of classic movies. While the storyline itself falls apart a little bit in Chapter 4, the jokes make it all worthwhile.

Actual gameplay is straightforward and familiar. Point-and-click to move or examine objects. Popup inventory if you move the mouse to the bottom of the screen. Some items need to be examined more than once. Right-click to get descriptions of items in your inventory. Active hotspots on the screen let you find objects of interest. Spacebar shows you all exits/items. The one twist in gameplay (and it's not really a twist) is that in some scenes you will have two or even all three of your companions together in the same scenario. It then requires teamwork and switching between characters to accomplish your goal. In those situations, you'll see little round medallions containing pictures of each of the characters in the upper-left of your screen. Simply click the icon of the character you want to control.

Graphically, the game is magnificent. BoUT is played in the third-person 3D perspective, using both straight-on and overhead views. The attention to detail is amazing, letting you see every pixel of a character and his/her setting. The facial detailing in particular is astonishing. The style is chiaroscuro meets realism meets comic book. I can safely say that BoUT blows away Benoit Sokal in the graphic department.

Which leaves the voice acting... which is some of the best I've ever encountered outside of the best FMV games (Tex Murphy, et al). The voice cast is predominantly British, which fit in perfectly with the LoTR-feel and plot of the game. King Art obviously went the extra step in this department to make sure that the humor of the game translated well, and it works in spades. I can understand why it took two years to produce an English version of BoUT... and every day was worth the effort.

Finally, is it worth the $30 price tag? We finished the game in about 16 hours, which is much shorter than one might expect to play a $30 game. You can get twice the gameplay out of a Myst game or The Longest Conversation or many other point-and-clicks for $20.

I don't regret a penny of it. It was the best game money I've spent since Anachronox.

Rating: 10
Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior... if human beings don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
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Bacardi Jim
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby Bacardi Jim » Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:11 pm

Sorry, I posted this in the wrong forum. Please move it appropriately.
Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior... if human beings don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby draclvr » Thu Nov 17, 2011 3:33 pm

I agree 100%. The asides by the character to me, the player, just cracked me up. Worth every penny....
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby Phlebas » Fri Nov 18, 2011 3:44 am

Hmm. I've seen quite a few people enthusing wildly about this game, but none of them have mentioned whether the puzzles are any good. Is that a bad sign, or is it just that the script was so hilarious that people forget to mention the gameplay is good too?
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby draclvr » Fri Nov 18, 2011 8:38 am

Good point, Phlebas, and that is unusual for BJ as he is a "puzzler's puzzler." I am not a good judge, but I rather liked the puzzles and found them challenging enough without being too difficult. And there are no "cliche" puzzles with most of them being quite clever and well-integrated into the story. I haven't quite finished the game yet, being somewhat distracted by Alice: Madness Returns.

But I will let someone with more adventure game experience expound further.
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby Bacardi Jim » Fri Nov 18, 2011 9:33 am

The puzzling in BoUT is fairly easy, about on the level of Syberia. While we did hit a walkthrough a couple of times, in every instance it was because we hadn't looked at an item enough times or gone back to talk to someone about a change in circumstances. In this respect, it is unusual for me to be so positive about a game that has such easy puzzles. That demonstrates how great the game is in all other aspects.
Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior... if human beings don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby Kickaha » Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:58 am

On the plus side the puzzles were such I got through without a walkthrough, and there were plenty of them. It was neat jumping back in time.

On the negative the raindance was a lone clickfest that I needed a lot of goes to get through. Towards the end of the game the subtitles were all in German, like the English conversion wasn't really completed. To me the game's breaking of the fourth wall, and emphasizing how derivative it was, grated. That lessened my immersion into the story-line. Not a classic for me but plenty of varied puzzles.
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby draclvr » Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:50 am

I guess as an RPG and FPS gamer, I found the raindance ridiculously simple. I know many people had problems with it though. I was surprised by the German subtitles at the end too - it's like they forgot the last bit of them.
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby Kickaha » Tue Dec 13, 2011 5:56 pm

Glad I wasn't seeing things there!
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby Bacardi Jim » Tue Dec 13, 2011 9:21 pm

Hrrmmm... we didn't have German subtitles in our game.
Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior... if human beings don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby draclvr » Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:04 pm

It was just the last few minutes of the game for me - maybe when you played as Ivo in the Wilderness Again part.
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby Kickaha » Wed Dec 14, 2011 12:15 pm

Yes just the last few minutes finale after Nate and Wilbur have done their jumping back in time.
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby Bacardi Jim » Wed Dec 14, 2011 4:27 pm

Now that I think about it, I think we had the subtitles turned off. Possibly.
Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behavior... if human beings don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby Val » Thu Dec 15, 2011 7:48 am

Just loved this game. In fact it is one of the few I have kept on my pc for future play. The raindance had me and I resorted to the walkthrough for that, but the rest I found absolutely entralling and the characters were great. Had no problems with subtitles but then, again, I had mine switched off. Highly recommended.
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Re: The Book of Unwritten Tales--A Review

Postby mbday630 » Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:42 pm

I just read this now. Wasn't that a gem of a game? I have played it through at least 3-4 times already, and probably this winter will play it again. the raindance was really hard the first couple of times, but, once I got the hang of it, it was do-able after only a few mistakes. this definitely is a keeper. thanks for your review!

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