Just over four years ago I reviewed The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 on PC and I loved it! So, when I was offered review code for the new Switch version, I jumped at the chance to see how well it has fared after a platform change and a change in the gaming landscape.
In short, it’s still pretty great but is hurt a little by the bare-bones porting treatment.
Set in the fantastical world Aventasia, you will swap between four protagonists – each with their own very unique personalities. Along the way you will encounter tropes, clichés, and all manner of oft-repeated “isms” that have come to characterise the fantasy genre over the last century or so.
In fact, these aspects of the genre have long been some of the biggest issues it faces. Elves are pointy-eared nature lovers, maidens are fair, orphaned boys become world saviours, and a middle-aged author will spend an uncomfortable amount of time describing a worryingly-young female character’s physical attributes. Supple or not, it’s well past time these things were left unsaid.
Thankfully The second entry in the Unwritten Tales series skilfully skewers most of these in short order and generally finishes each off with a very knowing wink and a nod, if not an actual laugh.
When it comes to gameplay, any fan of traditional point-and-click adventure games will find a lot to like, as Unwritten Tales 2 is unabashedly old-school. Combine items with other items or objects in the world to solve a puzzle, open a door, or forge a path ahead. Talk to folk and select the best response to get the desired answer in return.
All of the things that I wrote about in my PC review still hold true – The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 is a joyous satire of the fantasy genre with an almost pitch perfect delivery, both in terms of its writing and voice acting. The puzzles range from simple to infuriating, but they never fall into the unfair or nonsensical. Sometimes they don’t make real-world sense... but are always consistent within the screwy logic of the game's world.
The only issues I have with the new version is that it does not feel very new, and nothing has been done to embrace the capabilities of Nintendo’s hybrid console. As far as content goes there is nothing new here that I can see, and this does look to be the exact same game I played four years ago. While not entirely a bad thing given the game holds up fantastically from a presentation stand point, some bonus features would have been nice. Better yet would have been an improved interface to make navigating the inventory on the Switch’s smaller screen easier.
The real issue though is that the controls have not been upgraded from previous console releases. Movement is great, but the proximity triggers required for interaction with in-world objects can be very clunky. In some cases, it’s just plain irritating as items close to each other can cause the prompts to overlay over each other – another example of the team not taking the Switch’s screen size into consideration. The real kicker here though is no touch-screen support, which is extremely confusing considering the title has released for both iOS and Android. This leads me to think that this was a straight port from the Xbox or PlayStation release with no additional work done to take advantage of the Switch’s hardware, nor take into consideration any unique issues the new platform may have. Pretty poor in my opinion.
That being said the game remains a hell of a lot of fun, and even now on my third play-through it never struggles to put a stupid grin on my face. At this point the only question I have is "who is this made for?" Surely everyone who wanted to experience The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 already has, but if for whatever reason you’ve not yet dived into the whimsical world of Aventasia now might just be the perfect time.