It’s your standard affair; a fantasy world is torn by war, it's only hope is the aged Gremlin MacGuffin the Archaeologist who harbours the secret of a powerful artefact that could spell the end of the feud, and he who holds the artefact can determine the fate of the word. It is up to the Alliance’s three involuntary heroes who have been drawn into the crisis, pitting them against the Army of the Shadows’ finest agents.
The Book of Unwritten Tales is the masterpiece of German developers King Art, who surprisingly enough had never made a full retail game in the past. As their first title, the adventure game took numerous awards and was subject to fantastic critical acclaim. Best of all is that nothing appears to have been lost in translation; and with the dialogue as one of the high points of the game, English speakers will still get all the wit, charm and intrigue that German fans received back in 2008 when the game was originally released.
The story focuses around four eccentric characters; Wilbur Weathervane, the simple, well-meaning welsh Gnome, Ivo the Elf Princess, Nate the adventurer, and the Critter his strange pink blob-like companion. Now the real star of the show is Wilbur, who wants to be a hero, he’s the gnome that’s a technophobe, and his endearing outlook on the world will hook you into the game. Ivo is your standard female character, she takes no nonsense, and can reach those spots up high that are impossible for little Wilbur. Then there's Nate, the coincidental character; in the wrong place at the wrong time, his flying ship is invaluable to the pair who hope they can save the Alliance.
As adventure games go, The Book of Unwritten Tales is a veritable old school Point and Click, however they also introduce many brilliant mechanics that make your epic journey far less complicated than some adventure games do. One feature present to aid your journey from screen to screen is the hotspot button; much like the Whispered World, you can press Space at any point during the game to see what you have not investigated.
What is most impressive with The Book of Unwritten Tales is the runtime, which clocks in at around 20 hours; the story is a truly epic adventure, and it's safe to say that an adventure game has not been so ambitious in scope and length since The Longest Journey pulled at our heart-strings back in 1999.
However, to top off any adventure game ever made, King Art have made it impossible to get stuck trying to combine item upon item with each other, because the option simply does not appear. If you cannot use the net with the rabbit, there is no need to try. Now if only the Discworld's and Gabriel Knight's of the gaming world had also used this mechanic. After all, this brilliant and simple idea means the end of phrases like; ‘I can’t do that’, ‘that doesn’t work’ or ‘what are you stupid?’
There are so many allusions to films, games and television in The Book of Unwritten Tales, but thankfully the numerous pop culture references are never taken too far, everything is in jest, and reaches a humorous climax, it does not attempt to flog the horse for more than it’s worth. So prepare for Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Monkey Island, World of Warcraft, Zorro, Gremlins, and the list goes on. Each is executed perfectly, and whether it's the role-playing MMO set in the Tax Office, or finding a metal pole to shine light onto some jewels -Last Crusade style- it is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face.
Adventure games would be nowhere without their puzzles, and whilst they are all pretty simple each puzzle is highly enjoyable! Most of the game revolves around the standard talking puzzles, however there are some almost perfect traditional puzzles that you will be tasked with; from brewing a potion Cooking Mama style, to orienteering a map from the directions spoken to you, the real puzzles are inventive and keep the game fresh compared to the tired worn-out repetition that the Adventure game genre can be rife with.
First impressions are deceiving with the Book of Unwritten Tales much like The Longest Journey, and it is important to give the game more than 30 minutes of your time, do not sit with it and decide you do not like Ivo, get to Wilbur and prepare to fall in love with the game in mere seconds, his charm and innocence will lay roots upon your gaming hand, and fully engross you into the magical journey of Wilbur, Ivo and Nate.
The 3D graphics are a brilliant achievement in the game, and they are a magical cross between Blizzard’s cartoony characters, and something you might see in a 80s fantasy film, the art style enthuses charm and personality into each creature, be they an NPC or playable character. When the beautiful graphics are combined with the absolutely flawless audio, something miraculous happens, and you’ve a selection of living, breathing and more importantly humorous characters in a world that you simply do not want to leave.
With a great selection of characters, dialogue and clichéd story you couldn't want anything more of an adventure game, and what is best about The Book of Unwritten Tales is it feels just like a proper 80s fantasy film; so much so you'll just want to crawl up into a duvet and play it on Christmas morning.
The Book of Unwritten Tales is available now in all good retailers for the SRP of £24.99, copies in store will also be the special Retail Edition that contains an Artbook, Soundtrack CD and A2 Poster. The Book of Unwritten Tales is definitely The Whispered World of 2011, so what are you waiting for? Snap up this brilliant adventure game while you have the chance.