While releasing as the prequel to The Book of Unwritten Tales, Critter Chronicles feels more like a prologue to the original game, than a self-contained entry to the series. Releasing only months after the Steam release of the original title, which was available outside of Steam for over a year, Critter Chronicles discloses the backstory of our aspiring hero Nate Bonnet and his furry alien Muppet companion.
With his troubles behind him, Nate soars through the sky in “his” newly acquired airship, although he didn’t obtain it in the traditional sense, he stole it from the notorious Red Pirate after cheating in a card game – not the smartest thing he has done. Ma’Zaz, an orc bounty hunter, surprises Nate with cannons pointed directly at him and the ship. From the get-go, you are presented with humorous banter between the characters, which surprised me as I wasn’t expecting a game to be this funny. If you are one to listen to every line of dialogue, you are in for a treat – even more so if you have played the previous game.
As with the most point-and-click adventure games, you will be spending most of your time wondering around environments, scouring and clicking every inch of possible space in the hope of finding something to click on. Or you can beat the system by holding down the spacebar, and every interactive element will be highlighted for you. Only try use it sparingly, otherwise you take away the fun of actually playing the game. The puzzles revolve around finding the correct item and using it in the appropriate spot in order to collect another item to use somewhere else. Generally, I’m pretty good at solving these types of puzzles, but Critter Chronicles stumped me more times than I would like to admit.
Most of the time I even had the correct item in my inventory, but would have never have guessed to use it. Who would have thought that firing confetti or cotton balls out of a cannon would be a solution to anything? No one, because it’s not a logical solution. Therein lies the problem with Critter Chronicles; too many of the puzzles don’t make sense. Yes, it’s a game, but puzzles should make logical sense, even if its only to a certain degree. Take the classic example of using a red key to open the red door, which hides the blue key to gain access to the blue door. It makes perfect logical sense and doesn’t involve having to use unrelated items to gain access to the correct item. It’s like trying to use a rubber hose to cut down a tree, which obviously won’t work, but upon failing you are given the axe that will work for trying the item that doesn’t make any sense. Because of this, I found myself using every item in every possible spot. At this point, I’ve stopped having fun and solving puzzles had become a tedious task in the way of progressing through the story.
If you are a Star Wars nerd like myself, you will love the pop culture references used throughout. In one instance, a schizophrenic explorer, who thinks he is a Yeti, yet at the same time he is trying to hunt down an “elusive” Yeti, has Nate trapped upside down in a cave carved in the ice. Basically pulling the scene exactly out of Empire Strikes Back, Nate even tries to use the “force” to reach a lightsaber in the snow. Another time the mouseover text, when you are trying to use an item, told me I was “doing something really stupid” – now the game is just making fun with me.
When switching over to play as Critter, examining items becomes a chore, due to his inability to speak any discernible form of English. I will admit, I had a few chuckles as he tries to explain things in a Beaker-like impression, but having to deal with a whole group of aliens that can’t explain anything makes figuring things out a little frustrating.
Not as long as The Book of Unwritten Tales, it took me around 10 hours to beat the game, which is perfect length for a point-and-click title. Regardless of my complaints about the occasional poorly designed puzzle, I enjoyed my time with The Critter Chronicles. I even went ahead and purchased the previous game on Steam, which I was only briefly familiar with. The entertaining and amusing writing is more than enough to recommend the game to anyone who enjoys the genre; especially considering the voice acting is excellent once again. The best part, it costs less than the original. If you are in the mood for a light-hearted adventure with lots of penguins and doesn’t involve a cliché “save the world” plot,Critter Chronicles is the perfect choice.
Note: The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles review was written based on the PC version of the game provided by the publisher.