Review: The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 (PS4)

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Title: The Book of Unwritten Tales 2
Format: PlayStation Network Download (11.85 GB)
Release Date: September 18, 2015
Publisher: Nordic Games
Developer: King Art
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: T
The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The very first tutorial instructions are contradictory. They say press Circle to look at something. Also press Cross to look at something and then Cross again to engage the item. So….why any Circle at all? It’s confusing right away. And it remains so.

Also, traversing your items menu is only accomplished by using the left thumb stick and not the D-pad. It works, but it just feels imprecise. The D-pad is useful for selecting items in an array because you only have to press in the direction you want and the items are highlighted with each press. By contrast the thumb sticks are useful for fluid movement.

These are small things but they count because they make sure the player has the best form of control. So far, a few minutes in and the game is a little confusing and clumsy. The D-pad is useless even in the PAUSE menu.

The story makes it clear from the first scene that princesses mustn’t be fat. A real feel-good moment for any teens playing the game who might be overweight. Video games, particularly ones which have a teen audience, need to have a message of inclusion for all kinds of people.

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That doesn’t mean they all must check-off boxes for various inclusory elements, but they definitely should never, ever hint at exclusion unless it comes from a villainous character who is proven wrong by the end of the story. This is a basic tenet of children’s storytelling and has been a part of media for young audiences for decades. Watch The Goonies.

Note my use of the term “teen” above. This game is rated T for Teen by ESRB for various reasons. Just one caveat to parents would be to not get this game for younger children unless you have already had the chat about from whence come babies. The game isn’t very subtle.

The gameplay mechanics are unusual in that the developer has clung to a strict point-and-click design for the console port which is generally eschewed. There is a section of story and then a section where interaction is available.

… all the mundane story elements I’ve got to spend time targeting …
There is nothing wrong with that apart from the fact that console gamers may find the gameplay staid and stiff. Regardless, the mechanics are valid if not to everyone’s taste.

Alas, it is true that the controls do not allow for D-pad choices in the world and thus the left thumb goes past something clickable and you have to spend time re-targeting it so you can hear about how mother replants flowers. No wonder this game takes twenty hours to complete.

You CAN press the Square button to make the game illuminate all the clickable items on the screen. And while this function is meant to be helpful, I just feel tired looking at all the mundane story elements I’ve got to spend time targeting. What’s worse, you have put the game in a pseudo-pause by pressing Square and must go to an object, press Square again and THEN you can examine the targeted object.

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See the illustration for the princess’s room and then imagine all the clicking and re-targeting. That said, isn’t this game pretty? It’s like dating Naomi Campbell. Very beautiful but you better be patient and you may need to duck. (Editor’s Note: Wow, now that’s an obscure reference!)

Sometimes there will be a prompt to interact! Thank goodness. I have mentioned in another recent review about how control schemes between PC and consoles can make a big difference in how a game is paced. Mousing around feels much quicker than console controller button presses. Never has this become more apparent than here.

Having the freedom to mouse the pointer over a scene and click on items in The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 would seem natural and quick but this port seems unnecessarily sluggish. And the ONE THING the developer could have done to help, again I say,”D-pad!!!” was left dead and useless.

… my love of obscuria …
Moving from one small area to another small area requires a selection and button press on the PS4. The same PS4 that handles Destiny in multiplayer with three people hearing the game on surround sound headphones and seamlessly, continents apart, working in tandem to run raids with milliseconds of lag. But here I have to see a doorway and decide between inspecting it or using it?

I have to give credit to the person who created the book that the princess reads about plants because it includes references to various movie titles, and in one case, a plant which enjoys both blood and baritones. If you’ve been following my particular reviews and my love of obscuria you’ll understand. If you haven’t, then all I can say is there are all sorts of anachronistic jokes to be had.

PRO TIP: After a few hours of listening to the same conversations over and over I finally discovered, quite by accident, that one can skip through them with the Cross button.

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We are used to getting contextual clues and this game gives them, except when it does not. Like when I tried to collect a book about fishing from the library, but because the game had not given me the interaction about fishing, I could not collect the book.

The book I needed moments later but had to unlock in the “conversation tree” first which now means that, although I could have picked it up earlier, I have to backtrack to collect it and take that knowledge back to catch a fish. A red herring, in fact.

PRO TIP
When you collect an item which you believe to be important in a certain context, you have to hit the Triangle button and choose the item to use it. The game may not give you a hint about that and you can wander for ages asking redundant questions.
… Literacy is important …
There may be certain items to gather to solve a puzzle. There is no mechanism in the game to track progress of the steps you’ve taken toward a goal apart from the collectibles in your bag. If you do random things, just because you may, it is easy to not realize they were important to something else entirely.

There are subsequent redundant environmental items, which come up by pressing the Square button, available for investigation. They all give the same information, which is literally “This is a useless bit of the scenery.” The game holds them out as a kind of trick… “Maybe THIS ONE will yield a different outcome!” They do not. But they add loads of useless and empty play time.

I am being a pedant but there is a subtitle that uses “to” instead of “too”. Come now! How many people’s eyes did this game have to pass before? Literacy is important! It’s a small thing but if English culture permits enough small things to slip through the cracks, before you know it know 1 well knot bee Abel two right write.

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I do not think I expect too much when I expect proper grammar from subtitles. Our children are learning. Our culture has enough poor examples. We don’t need video games to contribute to ignorance.

Visuals:
This game is actually very beautiful. It must be running at 60 frames per second because the images are so clear and the movement is so smooth. It’s a nice mix of animation and game design.

Audio:
The theme is appropriately regal. But it is over-used to a fault. There is very little scoring for mood. The few musical cues there are get slapped on top of everything regardless of the situation at hand. “Oh my, I feel sad…” BOMBOMBOMMMM BLAAAHHHHH TRUMPETS BLAAAARE TAAADAAAAH!!!

The brightest spot is the voice acting which is quite well done. Thank goodness.

… not completely worthless …
Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
There is room on the PS4 for all kinds of games. There is room on the PS4 for point and click adventures. Does there need to be room for antiquated point and click adventures where the developers do as little as possible to get their game ported from the PC and up and running so they can sell it again? The free market will tell the tale. I hope the answer is yes. I hope everyone gets the game they enjoy.

If you want a great point and click adventure game on the PS4 check out Broken Age. That is how it’s done! And if you’re a PS Plus member, you already own it. Check out Andy’s review of that game.

This game is not completely worthless in that it did make me think, “I bet if I just keep playing, it will bear fruit!” The game engenders HOPE! So if you are feeling down and need hope… this is the game for you. Just… for goodness sake, ween yourself off of it before your hope runs dry.

Score:
6.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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