There has been something of a recent resurgence in the point and click genre of late, with titles such as Machinarium, Resonance and (arguably) The Walking Dead all aiming to ape the success of the crowning achievements of the genre such as The Secret of Monkey Island.
German developer King Art Games recent entry in the field, The Book of Unwritten Tales, which took two years to be translated in English, found much love and respect on its release. This prequel, Critter Chronicles, has arrived hot on the heels of this triumph, and tells the story of how two of the protagonists from the first game met, making this a good starting point if you haven’t played the first game.
The game opens with the brash, idiotic Nate Bonnet on the run in a flying ship he has seemingly procured by dubious means, pursued by a female orc intent on retrieving it for her boss. As the player, you are quickly introduced to the standard mechanics of point and click adventure, and anyone with any experience of the genre will be instantly at home. This is helped by the fact that the game uses a clean and non-intrusive UI similar to that of Machinarium, with collected items held off the screen and available by dragging you mouse to the edge. The game also keeps all actions context-sensitive, making it simple to interact with and easy to navigate. A quick tap of the space bar displays your current objective and all the available interactive objects on the current screen.
After an hour or two, your viewpoint switches to control the second character, a pink, hairy elongated creature called Critter and later on, in chapter 3, you use the two characters in tandem, and many puzzles have to be solved by combining and interacting between the two.
Graphically the game is good with 3D character models moving over 2D backgrounds, and a style that crosses fantasy with an industrial feel, making it feel almost reminiscent of the Fable series. Load times are quick, and navigation from place to place, screen to screen isn’t a chore like it can be in games of this type.
Voice acting is variable, with a variety of performances ranging from suitably obnoxious to overly affected and over the top. The humour, whilst smile inducing, isn’t ever laugh-out-loud funny, but it makes up for it by being positively pleasant. It’s also fun to spot pop culture references hidden within the game like Star Wars (stuck in a snowy cave, hung upside down with a yeti-like creature, a cylindrical shaped tube sticks out of the snow – obviously you can’t reach it). There are also reference to Star Trek, Portal and several other titles.
Many puzzles can be worked out fairly logically, but you soon find yourself falling prey to obscure puzzles (load cannon with cotton balls?) and exhaustively clicking on pairs of items in the hope of hitting upon the solution. It can become a little baffling as to what you have to do, but it never feels hard or unfair, and when you did hit upon the solution, be it by your own brainpower or by process of elimination, the solution never seemed wildly off-kilter.
The story moves along at a fair pace, and there is a real compulsion to see the tale through, with the characterisation strong enough to make you see what happens to the cast as the simple narrative progresses. There is a good 10 hours or so of gameplay here, making Critter Chronicles a meaty adventure, and if you are a fan of the genre, this is more than worth picking up.
MLG Rating: 7/10 Platform: PC / Mac Release Date: 5/12/12
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of The Book of Unwritten Tales: Critter Chronicles for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a PC. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.