Adventure games are alive and well. Despite a lack of major titles after the 1990s and a recent design shift due to titles like Telltale's The Walking Dead, there are still developers aiming to please conventional point-and-click fans. King Art's The Book of Unwritten Tales did just that in 2011, receiving acclaim from critics and fans alike. Following a prequel title in 2012, the game is getting a full sequel in episodic form (proving that they haven’t completely ignored recent trends).
The game kicks off with a storybook-style recap of the first original title's plot. The camera zooms out to reveal that the man reading the book - a cocky human adventurer named Nate - is plummeting to his death, and seamlessly transitions into gameplay. It's a really impressive introduction to the game, and showcases the developer’s brilliant technical and artistic talent. The gameplay sequence that follows involves simply clicking to make the character move between floating bits of debris, but the quality of animation throughout is mesmerising.
Once this is over, you switch to a different character; Ivo, an unfulfilled elf princess. From here it’s very standard adventure fare. Traversing dialogue trees, making mostly illogical item combinations, collecting ingredients for a potion - you know, the usual. This will be either a good or bad thing depending on your disposition. Having not played a point-and-click game for a while, I was pretty happy to go through the motions.
It's certainly not pushing any boundaries in the gameplay department - at least not in the time I spent with it. The game's strengths lie in its presentation; it’s got a lush, bright colour palette, detailed environments and well-animated characters. Scenes are backed by a cinematic, grandiose soundtrack and voice acting is strong for the most part. Oddly, side characters are more convincing than the main cast - my personal favourite is Arbor, a tiny ent gardener with a strong West Country accent.
In addition to the aforementioned Nate and Ivo you’ll also play as Wilbur, a slightly neurotic gnome who’s starting his new job as a professor of magic. The multi-character formula is a well-established one and it works well here; each of three returning protagonists is unique and memorable. The game has a fun, lighthearted tone, as evidenced by its premise which involves a magic force taking over the land, turning beasts into fluffy pink creatures and castles into dollhouses. Time will tell if the story will satisfy fans, but at least characterisation and world-building appear to be first-rate.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is currently in Early Access with four of its five chapters available. Episodes can't be bought piecemeal like Telltale games so you'll need to commit to the whole season if you want to try the game. I only played a couple hours of the first episode, but I had a great time with it. Assuming the developers maintained this level of quality throughout the product, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is looking like a modern adventure game classic.