Nordic Games' The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 revisits the point-and-click adventure glory days known for titles such as Monkey Island and Simon the Sorceror. Although there are still some great adventure games out there, not many arrive on console (and even less on the Wii U), so it's always exciting to see how these titles play out. Although this game is a sequel you don't necessarily have to have played the first one, either, as it's fairly easy to catch on.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 sees you play as different characters throughout the game – Ivo the elf princess, Wilbur the gnome and Nate the - erm - human as they embark on an adventure to save the land of Avantasia from evil. You are thrown in straight away, taking on the role of Nate as he freefalls through the air. The introductory sequence and tutorial that follows are cleverly done and certainly useful, preparing us for the story to begin. You start in earnest as rebellious Ivo who is locked in her Elven home to avoid not only a strange epidemic, but her mother who is putting the pressure on for an arranged marriage.
Although not entirely original in its fantasy tropes including elves, gnomes, wizards and so on, the game draws you into the story using its humour and cultural references to other adventure franchises. The dialogue is clever and funny, with the characters breaking down the wall between them and the player every so often. References start early with Game of Thrones and continue throughout including Minecraft, Monsters Inc. and many others. The references are for the most part cleverly placed, though a few are just thrown in with seemingly no context or thought, and this can let the game down at times.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 still maintains a good level of comedy even without its many references, and the writing in general is definitely one of its strengths. Unfortunately, the comedy is sometimes broken up with very long dialogue sections which had us tempted to press the 'skip' button. Voice acting is mainly good with the odd blip; some characters are more fluid and believable than others, but overall they're fine for an adventure game and the weak ones don't taint the experience.
The puzzles in The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 are mostly logical, with the occasional instance seeming a bit out of place or poorly explained. Like most adventure games, talking to the characters will mostly give you a good hint in the right direction but sometimes you will be wandering around for a good while before you solve your dilemma. The main issue with the puzzles, for us, was the clunky way of interacting with items. In order to interact with something it must be highlighted, but this system is not very intuitive on a console and you can end up repeatedly interacting with the wrong thing or unwittingly bashing into items.
The puzzles also require a lot of travelling between screens, with a fast travel option only available in some areas. Small user interface issues are easily found, such as the requirement to double click to exit a zone; it would have been a lot more comfortable to simply walk and let the screen move intuitively. Once unlocked, you can switch between characters to complete a puzzle (think Day of the Tentacle style) which means if you get stuck with one character you can switch to the other and see if they fare any better.
The GamePad is largely dormant in this title; the only function is to switch screens between your TV and controller. This is a shame as the touchscreen is just screaming out to be used for adventure titles, particularly in this case for an inventory or map. The settings option on the menu allows you to tweak graphical ares alongside the volume of the speech, sound and music. This is particularly handy as sometimes the characters are barely audible so you can tweak it to get the best experience. Graphically, the game is strong with Pixar-esque detail and stunning backgrounds which suit both the story and characters well; the only downside is that the on-screen text is sometimes tricky to read. The various locations allow the graphics to really shine and match the mood well, ranging from the very bright and colourful to the dark and dingy.
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 on Wii U does suffer from some glitches. The audio is a pleasant classical soundtrack, but the volume suffers from drastic changes whenever it feels like it and sometimes just cuts out altogether. The game tends to freeze up on occasion, and there was one glitch which saw us having to quit the game altogether as we were not able to save. Glitches are always frustrating and will take away from your user experience - these are no different.
It takes around 20 hours to complete the main story, but depending on how tricky you find the puzzles it can be much longer. At a budget retail price it offers enough in terms of gameplay, humour and presentation to be worth the price, but just be aware of the dreaded glitches!
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is an enjoyable game at its budget price, with a pleasing mix of adventure, humour and some head scratching puzzles. There are some negative points which stop the game from being a fully fledged win, but it is still an enjoyable and nostalgic experience for any gamer with a love of point-and-click styled experiences.