Though you will have clicked on this article to read about KING Art Games’ comedy point-and-click adventure The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, allow me for a moment to talk to you about FIFA. EA Sports releases a new FIFA game, like clockwork, every 12 months without fail. Iteration is the name of the game with regular incremental changes employed in favour of periodic, major overhauls. Despite the slight nature of the games’ changes, when the new instalment of FIFA is released, the previous immediately feels like an unplayable relic. You can’t go back. So when developers like Telltale Games – with titles like The Walking Dead – are taking huge strides to modernise the adventure game genre, playing something like Unwritten Tales 2, which very much follows an old formula, is a complete slog by comparison. In the immortal words of Primal Scream: “Can’t go back, I can’t go back.”
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 relies heavily on its player yearning for a return to the golden age of point-and-click adventuring. Unfortunately, I am not that player. Rather than nostalgia or excitement, this is a time in the genre that I look upon with anguish and trepidation, and Unwritten Tales 2 absolutely conforms to all of the notable characteristics of said time period. Your inventory will bulge with a bunch of nonsense that you’ve only picked up in the hopes of taping it to something else further down the line (and this may or may not achieve anything). Conversations will flow in an oddly stilted and unnatural fashion because there’s the hope that a seemingly unrelated dialogue option will trigger something to actually happen. And puzzles will only be solved through an illogical process of elimination that sees you interact with every object in every possible combination of orders until propping up a mirror on a statue allows you to trap a bird in a music box.
Rather than curiosity, fear of missing something vital is what drove me to explore every corner of every area, interacting with every bench, beehive and bowl of seeds. I felt like I was completing chores because my mum said I couldn’t have any pudding otherwise, as opposed to playing a game for fun. Unwritten Tales 2 isn’t fun.
Often, however, we are able to overlook weaknesses in a video game – particular when it comes to gameplay itself – when the title offers strength is other areas. For all its success and innovation from a story-telling standpoint, the aforementioned Telltale’s The Walking Dead is an ugly, buggy mess. In fact, I had to wait weeks for a patch in order to overcome a glitch that halted my progress in Episode 3 – yet I still consider The Walking Dead to be one of my personal games of the year for 2012. Unwritten Tales 2 does not, unfortunately, shine strongly enough in other areas to compensate for its shortcomings. Its story and characters, though inoffensive, are unremarkable. As a parody of the fantasy genre, the game identifies the trappings of its subject material but does little-to-nothing fun or inspiring with them (see Until Dawn for an effective use of tropes). Similarly, the characters do very little to encourage any sort of emotional attachment and I doubt they’ll even linger in my consciousness for very long.
Then there are smaller issues like the fact that the triumphant score is just a little bit too loud, impeding one’s ability to fully interpret the mediocre voice acting. Screens are often so cluttered that using a controller to interact with the intended object isn’t always the easiest task. Even the game’s tutorial is bothersome and outdated – it feels like a separate experience rather than integrated into the main campaign.
Though I could never call The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 a bad game – it’s technically sound and accomplishes much of what it sets out to do – I am compelled to label it dull and outdated. The adventure game genre has come too far to go back and enjoy such an experience.