The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles (TCC) is a follow-up to King Art‘s highly acclaimed point-and-click adventure, The Book of Unwritten Tales (TBoUT). The Critter Chronicles takes place prior to the events of TBoUT and tells the story of how Nate Bonnet and Critter, his furry pink sidekick, first met. As a stand-alone prequel, no prior knowledge of the series is necessary to jump right in.
The Critter Chronicles, like its predecessor, is a standard point-and-click adventure with clever puzzles and witty dialogue. Anyone with experience with the classic LucasArts adventures or any of the myriad of recent adventure games should be able get going without much effort. In TCC players are able to chose between two difficulty options, normal or hard. The hard setting features more puzzles and fewer hints, and is generally geared towards those who found TBoUT too easy. One of the major things that King Art got right with TBoUT was their ability to make the puzzles logical, yet still fairly challenging. The Critter Chronicles, however, features a number of less logical puzzles that harken back to the glory days of LucasArts, when puzzles were almost comically absurd. This is the case in both the normal and hard modes.
One of the more unique gameplay aspects of TBoUT was the ability, or rather necessity, to control more than one character in order to solve certain puzzles. Though there are less playable characters in TCC, this feature has been brought back to great effect. The only real sore spot in the gameplay is an annoying pause when characters first begin to interact with each other. Clocking in between 8 to 12 hours of gameplay, TCC is a considerably shorter game than TBoUT. That puts it about average with most point-and-click games.
The Critter Chronicles tells the humorous tale of how Nate Bonnet and Critter first became a duo. For those who have played TBoUT, the game offers insight into Critter’s origins and how Nate became a captive of the bounty hunter Ma’Zaz. Critter’s back story, unexpected and amusing, is a definite highlight in the game. Several characters from the original game make appearances and we’re also introduced to several new and interesting inhabitants of the game world.
King Art’s appreciation for the genre and all-things-geek are ever-present in their hilariously interwoven references to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and their point-and-click forebears. At only about half of the length of TBoUT, The Critter Chronicles is nowhere near as robust in scope, but instead gives us a quick and satisfying glimpse into the characters gamers grew to love from the first game.
King Art games really ups the ante when it comes to the quality of their visuals. Like The Book of Unwritten Tales before it, The Critter Chronicles features richly detailed backgrounds and 3D character animations that draw the player deeper into its quirky world. The only real disappointment here is there aren’t nearly as many environments to explore in this game, as compared to its predecessor.
Sound is another area in which The Critter Chronicles really stands out. An excellent voice cast with great comedic timing is rounded out with an top-notch musical score. The orchestral soundtrack adds the perfect backdrop for TCC’s epic fantasy world. It’s the kind of aural experience you would expect from a game that takes its cues from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. The sound design, along with the excellent visuals, further pulls you into the game world. Whether it’s the howling of the frosty winds or underwater call of the whales in the distance, the subtle background nuances help bring the game to life.
Despite its few frustrations, true aficionados of point-and-click adventures will not want to pass up The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles. Fans of the first one will appreciate the added back stories and richness the game brings to the already established characters. Gamers new to the series will appreciate humor and quality production values throughout. While TCC is about half the length of its predecessor, it’s being sold at an appropriately lowered introductory price.