The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 (2015)

I was certain I would end up loving The Book of Unwritten Tales 2. Sure, the prequel, The Critter Chronicles, for the first game I found bland and boring, but I did like the first TBoUT: it's fun and well made parodic adventure game set in a world where all kinds of fantasy cliches dwell in a bit of a fashion of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books.  And for what it's worth, TBoUT2 brings more of the same. I don't like it as much though, as while the game does have some fun stuff, it also feels pretty long-winded.

Critter Chronicles was a prequel to the first game and showed how Nate met Critter. It also had the same feeling of being long-winded as the TBoUT2 has.  I think the structure of the games has a lot to do with it, as most of the time you're stuck in relatively small locations, trying to figure out what to do. So you walk all around, try stuff, talk to people and so on. But something about the writing feels off, which makes some of the discussions just seem too long. But I guess that's also because I just don't find this one to be particularly funny, so listening to jokes that miss the target is a bit of a trial in itself (luckily you can skip dialogue).

Ivo's bedroom. The quality of the background art is superb
Though, unlike CC, TBoUT2 is also a very long game, especially for an adventure game: it took me a bit over 22 hours to beat. Not since The Longest Journey have I played a traditional adventure as long. But in the case of TBoUT2 I would have preferred some fat to be trimmed off. The first game in the series had a pretty good length of a bit over 15 hours, which I thought was pretty spot on.

In TBoUT2 you can again control the three characters from the first game: gnome wizard Wilbur, elven princess Ivo and the swashbuckling pirate Nate and his companion Critter. Most of the time you'll be playing with only one character at a time because of how the game is segmented. It did occur to me though, that had there been more freedom to change between characters all the time, like in Day of the Tentacle for an example, the game itself would probably feel more bearable, as you could just go from character to character if you're stuck somewhere.

Anyhow, this time around Wilbur finds out, that he's not really a wizard at all. It's been his wand, that's been doing the magic, as it's evil. Unluckily for him, a young, spoiled brat Van Buren, who's related to the evil wizard who created the wand, gets a hold of it and with her mother begins to terrorize the land. At the same time Ivo finds out that she's pregnant, presumably cursed, and Nate is doing, well whatever he's doing in trying to be an all around scoundrel.

Wilbur has also been nominated as a professor in the school of magic
Of course, it won't come as a surprise, that the real force behind all that is going wrong is the main baddie from the previous two games, the lizard-like wizard Munkus. He's plucking the strings in order to cause chaos and in order to gain more power. So pretty standard fare, all in all.

Graphically the game looks amazing. The backgrounds are again pre-rendered, but they all have quite a bit of added depth in them thanks to parallax scrolling and other trickery, which makes the scenes really pop. As far appearances go, TBoUT2 is among the best looking adventure games in recent years, though the character modelling does leave a bit room for improvement.

The music is mostly okay, but nothing really spectacular. The voice acting ranges from good to mediocre. Some of the dialogue is pretty clunky, so this is one aspect that does ruin the game for me in part. The actors try to do their best with some of the lines, but in the end, there's quite a bit material in it, that just isn't funny. And the more dramatic beats of the story just don't mesh in well and the end result feels a bit messy.

Dark Woods ended up as my favourite location of the game. Overall it felt like had the game been centred there, it would have turned out better.
I can't fully recommend TBoUT2. In comparison, the first game it feels like a lesser game, despite a lot of love has evidently gone in it. It looks great, but the script could have used a couple of more polishing passes. It does gain more momentum towards the end and the final chapter is overall the strongest part of the game, as it feels that it's been edited properly and there's no huge amount of fluff in it. It's also a location where the humour worked for me.

As I said though, this could have been a bit better game had it been structured differently. The optimal design for this would probably have allowed the player to switch freely between characters, now, thanks to tied down nature of the locations and the length of the story, the game feels a bit too stagnant.

The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is available through GOG and Steam.

A map of Avantasia