Lace Mamba Global The Book of Unwritten Tales review
The Book of Unwritten tales is perhaps best described as a post-modern point-and-click adventure – the game is peppered with literary, film and game references, with nods to Indiana Jones, Monkey Island, Lord of the Rings and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. If you can wade through the in-jokes, there’s plenty more to discover beneath the surface.
As you would expect from a fantasy genre spoof, the story is suitably magical – there’s a lost artefact of unimaginable power that the trio of controllable heroes must recover, before the resident forces of darkness can use it for evil. The heroic band is made up of Ivo - the obligatory scantily-clad elf princess and only really competent member of the team; Wilbur Weathervane, the game's ersatz hobbit - a seemingly ordinary young gnome who dreams of adventure - and Nate: pirate, adventure and owner of a convenient airship. Control switches between each of the three heroes as the story unfolds, occasionally requiring all three to team up to achieve a shared goal.
The story stumbles a fair bit in its first chapter – with a constant barrage of pop culture references, the elegantly designed puzzles start to feel like an excuse for yet another Star Wars gag or gaming in-joke. Thankfully, this sense of pointlessness evaporates out as you progress, easily forgotten when faced with the game’s beautiful locations that feel as if they could exist in their own right. Both character models and level backgrounds are visually stunning, which helps immerse the player even further into the story.
By the time we'd made it through the second chapter the game had begun to win us over, thanks to a brilliant sequence of puzzles that calls on you to mix potions, do improbable things involving sheep and pull the proverbial wool over the Grim Reaper's eyes. The puzzles in general are ingenious and the voice acting is superb. Different races get their own accents, so gnomes sound like they're from the Welsh valleys and dwarves from the Scottish highlands.
It's a pity that The Book of Unwritten Tales tries so hard to generate humour by referring to other stories, because the game has potential when carried by its own plot rather than a series of pop culture references. There are a few genuinely clever touches, such how a small and sparsely populated town has been virtually abandoned following the ravages of war - a tidy and emotive way of getting around the relatively small number of locations and characters available in a point-and-click adventure.
The puzzles are great, the sound and graphics excellent and the protagonists are a surprisingly personable bunch. It’s also longer than many modern adventure games and only gets better as it goes along. It took a while to win us over, and we never want to see another Monkey Island-inspired off-screen action sequence again, but The Book of Unwritten Tales is an entertaining romp through fantasyland.