Prequels to games aren’t as common as in the movie industry, but this doesn’t mean that they’re inferior to the original, as KING Art Games’ point-and-clicker The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles shows.
The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles (PC)
(Germany 2012, developer: KING Art Games, publisher: Nordic Games, platform: PC)
Adventurer Nate Bonnet crash lands on the icy wastes of the Northlands while being chased by a headhunter and meets a family of Critters who’re in danger of antagonist Munkus who wants to take control of a miraculous machine.
Simple but fun story and characters
The plot is much simpler this time around than in The Book of Unwritten Tales, and while it lacks the same sense of epic-ness, it’s enough to tell a convincing story between Nate and Critter without digressing too much. There may be fewer twists and turns, but it doesn’t make the mistake of promising too much and delivering too little, either. Adventurer Nate is still unlikable for the most part, and his various asides are eye-rolling-ly unfunny at times with an over-reliance on ridiculing Star Wars. But Critter finally gets a much bigger role, and the game is all the better because of him.
Situation comedy with Critter’s gestures are just as hilarious as Nate’s encounter with an alien baby who can imitate voices. Even with fewer NPCs, their dialogues are well written and memorable, especially with a man looking for the Yeti and being that creature at the same time. Despite not having the same quality of writing as in LucasArts or Telltale Games titles, the humor is often spot-on, even if this means that penguins get hurt in the process.
Not so simple but great puzzles
The puzzle design is just as good as in the predecessor, even if only two characters are playable this time. The solutions to problems are mostly logical and come even close to classic LucasArts ingenuity with funny results. The difficulty curve is just right with an option to choose between two modes (the more difficult of which unfortunately adds some annoying logic puzzles) and the inclusion of hints to complete certain goals, catering for less seasoned players. However, if one expects many environments to walk around in and objects to use, one will be disappointed, as one is restricted to the snowy, icy locales of the Northlands. It takes time before a completely new location is unlocked, but it’s worth the wait, as it offers some great puzzles in addition to a impressive Escher-like look.
No simple but even better presentation
The visual and auditory presentation of the game is great with nicely drawn backgrounds and characters, the highlight being Critter’s animations, while the high quality voice acting ensures that listening to the often long conversations is pleasing as well, in addition to a nice musical score accompanying the proceedings. It’s now possible to run, making navigation easier, although going through doors with a sudden running start looks unintentionally funny. A weird oversight, considering that the general artwork (especially in the Seastone area) is fantastic to look at.
A prequel bettering the original
Despite being a prequel and not as epic as The Book of Unwritten Tales, the story is just enough to keep the player going. Maybe it’s exactly this sort of minimal plot and character development which makes the game more enjoyable to play than its big brother. If one expects a long journey with various characters to play as or talk to, one will be disappointed. But its brevity with less than 10 hours playtime doesn’t distract from the fact that the puzzles are genuinely great at times and the presentation always top-notch. While the humor is still a bit tame and forced, The Critter Chronicles offers enough laughs and memorable characters along the way.
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