The Book of Unwritten Tales: Critters Chronicles is the prequel to the well-received The Book of Unwritten Tales which focuses on the Critters and how they met Nate. This is a stand-alone add-on to the game, but it also stands up as it’s own game as well.
The first thing you notice about the game is the distinct art style, and if you played the original, it will make you feel instantly at home. The art style can be greatly admired throughout the game, as you will be spending a lot of time staring at it, frustrated and scratching your head, because the puzzles are just so damn hard, and there are no obvious hints on where to go next or what to do. The only one you get is if you correctly wander your cursor over the correct area or item and click on it. Now I suppose using the space bar to show points of interest is a help as well, but if you’ve been sat staring at a puzzle for over 15 minutes, getting more and more frustrated, there should be a way for the game to show where to go next.
The one thing that kept me going was the humour, if you’re not so bogged down in frustration, there are some extremely funny lines and parodies of current cultural events such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Mario. The best line for me was “This ship will do the Kessel Run in 2 days” an obvious parody of Hans Solo’s famous line in Star Wars: A New Hope. The light relief does make all the frustration more bearable, but only just. However, there are instances where what is coming up on screen doesn’t match what the on-screen text is saying.
In terms of actual gameplay experience, this is a standard point and click adventure, much in the style of Escape from Monkey Island. During the game you get to play as both Nate and the Critter, and each has their own specific role to play in the game, and at times they have to work together to solve problems. Personally I preferred playing as Nate, mainly as he had a lot more charm (Obviously, as the Critter can’t speak a word of English) and his sections were more interactive with other characters. The Critters section just seemed a bit tacked on, and it wouldn’t have harmed the game just to be playing as Nate. There are some good mini-games to play as well, such as lock-picking where you have to feed a bent paper-clip through a lock to break it open. These were entertaining sections that managed to break away from the frustration of the main-game.
Overall this is a good, but exceedingly frustrating game, which requires a lot of thought. This definitely isn’t a game for someone who doesn’t have a lot of patience, as they will just leave the game completely unfinished. However, if you are someone who likes thinking things through and enjoy cute art styles, this is definitely worth a pick-up.