Top critical review
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Huge step back
on 27 September 2015
The Critter Chronicles is a prequel to The Book Of Unwritten Tales. The series is a traditional point-and-click game, set in a fantasy world with a lot of humour thrown in.
The original game told the tale of an archaeologist gremlin named MacGuffin who discovers a book which gives the location of an artefact that can put an end to the war. He gives Ivo the elf and Wilbur the gnome separate tasks to visit the arch-mage. After they cross paths, they hire the services of mercenary Nate and his pal Critter to aid them on their adventure. In this prequel, the backstory of Nate and Critter is fleshed out. Personally, I found Wilbur and Ivo much more likeable characters so it seemed a weird decision to choose the two weakest characters for a separate game.
At the start of the game, Nate is pursued by the Orc bounty hunter Ma'Zaz. After crash-landing on the Northlands, he meets the Critter race who wish to retrieve their stolen artefact from Munkus, the evil mage. Nate agrees to help, since he needs the Critter's mechanical expertise to fix his air-ship. The character 'Critter' is deemed a bit of an outcast by the leader, and so he teams up with Nate in hope to prove himself to the clan.
Critter is a strange-looking character. He cannot speak English, and so communicates in gibberish and arm gestures. Part of the feedback in a point-and-click game is the description of the items to aid the player in the puzzles. You don't get that with Critter, but instead get humour which quickly wears thin. Critter was funny for the short time you played with him in the original game, but spending more time playing with him is an unwelcome decision.
The game can be enjoyed by new players since there is only a few returning characters and few references to the first game.
The voice acting is very good, so it's always a pleasure to listen to the dialog, but you can skip it by clicking if you wish. Early on, there's little nods to Star Wars since Nate is a Han Solo-like character. The game never takes itself too seriously, so expect lots of pop-culture references.
The game-play is the tried and tested formula of picking up objects then either: using them, combining them, or giving them to someone in order to make progress. Clicking on objects in a scene gives you a description of them. The icon changes to a pick-up icon if you can place it in your inventory, (sometimes) becomes disabled if it is not required any more, or stays active if it is needed in a puzzle. Pressing Space bar highlights all the items of interest rather than 'pixel hunting'. Placing your mouse at the bottom of the screen pops open your inventory. You can right-click for a description of them, or left click to select them.
One of the great things about the original game was that the puzzles were always logical. It seems this game was designed by different people, because now it's a complete u-turn. The puzzles are always illogical, so the majority of the game you are just mindlessly using your objects and hoping you can make progress. There's also a larger focus on combining objects, so expect to click around in your inventory in hope that you create a useful object.
There's also many instances where you are required to repeatedly click on the same object in order to progress. There's nothing that indicates you have to do this, but you end up finding yourself doing this out of frustration since there seems nothing else to do.
There's only a few areas across the course of the game, so expect a lot of backtracking. The illogical puzzles increase the amount of backtracking you do as you are wandering around aimlessly, which then inflates the game's length. When you think about it, it feels more like DLC than a stand-alone game.
After the great The Book of Unwritten Tales, I was really looking forward to playing The Critter Chronicles. However, the things that the original game did right have been replaced with things that make a bad adventure game. The choice of characters is poor, the puzzles are illogical, and it feels short and repetitive compared to the original game.