We all have that game, book, film or whatever that we can go through time and time again without ever getting bored — and adventure games, as a genre, are especially good at that.
So for me, which would be the titles I can go back to over and over again without ever growing weary of them? Oh sure, you’ve got your obvious choices — Grim Fandango, the Monkey Island games, even Discworld II. Yet KING Art Games’ and The Adventure Company’s The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, specifically, is a game I just can’t seem to stop playing.
The 2015 sequel to The Book of Unwritten Tales, itself a point and click big budget masterwork, is a wonderfully warm and fuzzy game, underpinned with slicing satire, joyful jibes, some surprisingly emotional moments and that time travel sidequest. It’s easy to break out cliched statements like “a love letter to point and click adventure games”, but when a sidequest involves your protagonist actually going back in time and downgrading the graphics and sound of the game he’s in while he does so, it’s pretty clear the devs are wearing their hearts proudly on their sleeves.
Three hapless heroes against a pointedly political plot
The original Book of Unwritten Tales was a modern day take on adventure games of yore — pointing and clicking is done via a clean and efficient interface, characters cannot be killed off, items and dialogue choices are used to outsmart and solve various puzzles, and so forth. The world in which the game was set was a pastiche of fantasy games of all kinds, with frequent shoutouts to the likes of WarCraft, the works of Tolkien and Discworld throughout. It was all genuinely funny and intriguing stuff, too.
A brief spinoff sojourn into The Critter Chronicles later, and KING Art Games set to work bringing their world of Aventasia to life with greater aplomb. This is adventure gaming done big budget, despite — or in rebellion against — the gaming market’s appetites of today. The game has a full orchestral score, a talented voice cast that includes a protagonist voiced by Doug blimmin’ Cockle, that’s right, that guy, as well as a runtime of 15 – 20 hours or more.
In short, the world of The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 feels more alive and more a realm of its own making, instead of a parody of those come before. The game is a finer end product for it, with characters often waxing lyrical on the history and political structure of the world, but also its copious ridiculous elements — those often being puzzle solutions in their own right.
In fine adventure game tradition, most of the characters you meet are obstructive and moody gits — although there are plenty of good eggs scattered about this picnic of personages also. Locations range from pirate islands to hidden elven kingdoms and a beautifully wintry reinterpretation of the first game’s medieval city, Seastone — and traversing all these locations solving puzzles, talking to characters and examining all the little details is a joy.
You have four heroes at your disposal as the game’s plot unfolds — the gnome mage Wilbur, freshly inaugurated as a wizard after the first game’s events, as well as the elven princess Ivo and the sky pirate Nate, who travels with his nonsense-burbling sidekick The Critter.
With its high production values, well paced plot (yes, even the sodding steam engine bit) and genuinely loveable protagonists, the game is a delight from beginning to astonishingly gut-punchy ending.
OK, you get it, I like this game. Why, though, am I always playing it?!
I’m a strong believer in adventure games finding a new lease of life on videogame consoles wait come back I’m still talking stop running away and tutting, and as such, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 has become one of those games I’m just always in the mood for. You could hand me a savegame of it in progress on the system of your choice right now and say I should be quiet and just do this for a bit and I’d happily oblige.
Something about this title is just wonderfully relaxing, uplifting and enjoyable to play, even in lines of dialogue I’ve heard on dozens of occasions and in beautifully crafted scenery I’ve poked through and clicked at time and time before.
The playable heroes are always having to outfox some kind of unfair disadvantage or another, with clever yet never too outlandish puzzles and choice conversation options at their disposal. There’s some wily improvising of items and some inventory combining to be had, but the whole thing unfurls with an easygoing rhythm that just makes it something I always want to engage with.
There’s something about always knowing what to expect and knowing a certain game is your mental comfort food, isn’t there?
I first played The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 on PlayStation 4, falling in love with it and cleaning up every last trophy. When the PS3 version of the game was given away on PlayStation Plus, back when Sony afforded their premium service with something akin to generosity, I snapped it up and 100-percented it all again.
When Frankie got her Xbox One and I found the game on Microsoft’s seminal GamePass service, I gleefully began another playthrough of it. This is besides the fact that we had already bought and begun another save on Frankie’s Wii U.
Every time I see it on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I go “oooo” and have to remind myself not to buy it because I already have it four times. I have to ignore it on Steam and GOG. I really really really like The Book of Unwritten Tales 2.
Despite my love of adventure games, there’s no title I seem to throw myself at so fervently as this one…
My favourite game of all time of any genre is Grim Fandango. You could argue the pacing and legacy is far stronger in Monkey Island. You could argue some games are more soothing, more calming, just out and out have that elusive ‘mental comfort food’ factor more abundantly. More purposefully.
I get it. I get all of it, and I agree with you. But the thing is… The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is just bloody lovely. And I just can’t help myself!