My earliest days as a computer gamer were spent scouring static scenes with my mouse pointer, waiting for that telltale shape change that indicated the item or bit of scenery that would lead me to the next static scene. These were adventure games, and they were the closest gaming came to delivering a cinematic experience back in the early 80s.
We've come a long way since the days of point-and-click. Advances in graphics and processing power have brought the action movie experience to our fingertips. We're firing guns, jumping from planes, shooting fireballs and delving deep into dangerous dungeons, all in real time.
We've taken control of the characters we used to only guide. We've gained a more personal experience, but we've lost touch with the magic of those thoughtful, barely-animated adventures.
The magic lurking within the pages of The Book of Unwritten Tales.
Adventure gaming isn't dead; it's just not mainstream. It's a type of game that doesn't work particularly well on consoles (Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain being a notable exception), and with today's cutting-edge 3D titles dominating the market, big-name publishers aren't chomping at the bit for the latest and greatest point-and-click title.
Adventure games began on the PC, and that's where they live to this day. Games like the recently-released indie hit Resonance nod to the pixelated past of the genre, which regular releases from European developers apply the technology of today to enhance the time-tested adventure formula.
Available today on Mac and PC, The Book of Unwritten Tales is a product of one such developer, Germany's King Art Games. Available since late last year via the developer's website, today The Book of Unwritten Tales goes wide across popular digital distribution platforms (Steam, Gog.com, etc.), and it's the most potent pure point-and-click adventure I've had the pleasure of playing in ages.
From the official description:
In a world torn by war, the aged gremlin archaeologist Mortimer MacGuffin harbours the dark secret of a powerful artefact. Whoever calls this artefact his own, will determine the fate of the world. While the Army of the Shadows sends out its best and most devious agents to discover the secret, the Alliance's four heroes find themselves involuntarily drawn into the crisis...
This is, unfortunately, an incredibly generic description. There is much more to The Book of Unwritten Tales than a small band of adventures caught up in a conflict. It's the story of an impetuous elf girl rushing headlong into danger without a thought for... well, much of anything. It's about a young gnome that dreams of adventure entrusted with a ring of relative power (not that much power). It's about a swashbuckling scoundrel and his hair companion (more Muppet than Wookie).
And it's about some genuinely funny moments.
Beneath top-notch voice acting, an inspired fantasy score and writing almost too witty for its own good, are more than 200 puzzles to solve on the way to freeing the world from the shadow of darkness. Much more than simply fetching item A and applying it to item B, the conundrums you'll encounter in The Book of Unwritten Tales require actual though, and there's no hint system, so you'll have to keep it honest.
The art direction combines the look and feel of hand-painted animation with 3D characters the create a look reminiscent of the best fantasy animation of the late 70's and early 80's. It's like a Rankin-Bass film (The Last Unicorn) come to life, with an orchestral score to match.
I play it and suddenly I'm sitting in my father's smokey computer room. I'm dressed in footie pajama bottoms and a long-sleeve baseball t-shirt. The smell of bacon wafting in from the kitchen isn't enough to tear my attention from the screen, chewing my lip as I peruse my inventory, looking for the key that opens the door to the next in a long string of bite-sized adventures.
A good adventure game is a powerful thing.
The Book of Unwritten Tales is what adventure gaming is all about, a showcase for a game type that many of us have lost track of, and an excellent title to help get you reacquainted with the genre. The genre where story and substance take precedent over action, and most importantly...
The Book of Unwritten Tales [Steam]