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Developer: Ape Marina The title screen.The title screen.
Released: 2016.11.14
Genre: Fantasy / Comedy
Graphics: Pixel art / 2D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Point-and-Click










Alfred Walsh is a geeky guy who manages to get an easy job as a librarian. Unfortunately for him, it happens to be one of those libraries that are guarding evil forces. In this particular case the library is keeping Oblivion locked in a chest, who would erase all tales and written stories from the history, letting everything that has happened go into nothingness, oblivion. As a new guy on the job, our boy Alfred naturally manages to release this evil force on the loose, and the game is all about trying to undo the damage.

Branding is everything. When somebody is thinking about launching new products, it is essential to think of a product name that is idetifiable, and if at all possible, unique. Why and how developers of this game have chosen such a generic name as Tales can only be guessed, as you probably have hundreds of unrelated search results with a title like that, and even those that are adventure-related are most likely hits for something like Tales of Monkey Island. But Tales it is, and it actually is very descriptive name, as the game is all about playing in famous tales that have been written all around the world.

The game narrative progresses by the protagonist librarian being in the library, and when needed, opening books of different tales and getting drawn into those worlds to do whatever needs to be done. The stories vary from Greek myths to Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy and to Jack and the Beanstalk and so on. Being familiar with notable works of literature certainly helps when playing the game. The central book is King Arthur's tale and wizard Merlin, who is giving advice on which books to explore when needing to achieve something, Merlin is also an in-game hint system of sorts, as he can give more or less useful hints on how to manage to do what needs to be done.

The protagonist adventuring.The protagonist adventuring.
Lots of the game humour is derived from these familiar tales being twisted and torn into parts of the game narrative, naturally there are some anachronisms and such which naturally fall into the colliding realities of different worlds, although given how much opportunities there would be, these kind of jokes have been used even sparingly. The premise of the game is nothing but brilliant, and it would be very difficult not to like it.

Unfortunately the implementation of the great core idea is not flawless. First of all, the game is very traditional. While it sounds like a good thing, it comes with some negative connotations. There are no shortcuts, which means that to pass from one book to another, the player must go to the library, find the right book and enter it by pulling it from the shelf. Because the books are not clearly marked, unless specifically looking them from the library catalogue, this process involves some pixel-hunting, and the library has two floors as well, so not all books are on the same level. While this takes only few seconds, travelling more between books starts to get very annoying soon, as the alternative would simply be a shortcut map of some kind. And yes, there is even a short animation when entering and exiting books.

The bigger problem is how inventories and objects in the game world are handled. A small innovation, although one that has been seen decades ago in some form, is that each book has its own inventory. The player also has a magic bag that can transfer one item from one book to another. The existence of magic bag can be seen as a necessary tool of explanation on how items can move from one tale to another. But the fact that it can hold only one item is simply lame, it only serves to artificially lengthen the playthrough time by forcing the player to jump between books in the aforementioned manner more times than would really be required. Also, there are a couple of occasions when the protagonist loses an item that allows to exit a book. That may be necessary to have the protagonist go through some mandatory situations, but repeating the same restriction to force the narrative is not an ideal solution. These things really don't spoil the experience, but they make the game seem less fun than it could ideally be.

Strange places.Strange places.
Solving the game puzzles is otherwise very fun, mostly. There are a couple of puzzles where things fall apart a bit, like a slider puzzle which doesn't have enough hints for its basically easy solution, and a couple of puzzles where items need to be used in ways that the previous game mechanics don't even hint at. One issue with puzzles is that apparently there is, following the adventure game traditions, only one object in the entire universe that can do the job that is needed. For instance, when water is needed, in the library having all human tales on the shelves, there is only one book where water can be taken from. There is also a puzzle which may be very easy for people who know Greek culture and Greek alphabets, but for those who don't, probably extremely challenging. Mostly the game is easy, but every book seems to have one "super puzzle" which is significantly more challenging than the overall difficulty in the game is.

Graphics are nice pixel arts which would fit in any classic adventure title, they are nice to look. Character animation is a bit clunky at times and could be more refined, but a minor issue like that won't really make much difference in the bigger picture. Esc button does not bring up any menu, which is a very weird thing, as it would have improved user-friendliness by leaps. Otherwise, the game allows unrestricted saving, has four quicksave slots, and also autosaves from time to time, so exploring the game world should be risk-free, especially as there are no game overs in the game.

Meeting Dante.Meeting Dante.
The game is completely voice acted. Sadly many of the voices are not that well done, and lack all emotion at times. It should be noted that the protagonist is voiced by Alasdair Beckett-King, who is a game developer too, who created the wonderful Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy! Background music doesn't stand out, but it does its job by building up the overall atmosphere. The game soundtrack also comes with the game (at least in most cases), so those who really like the music get a nice bonus audio.

For some, Tales can be a bit too traditional game with its pixel arts graphics and old-fashioned game mechanics. But that shouldn't stop most players from enjoying the game. It's a wonderful, nice game, which probably gets lost in the crowd of other games easily (having a generic game title really doesn't help with that). Many things could be more refined than they are, but the basic concept is so good that it carries the game over its shortcomings. The bottom line is, Tales is a very fun game to play, while its humour isn't very explosive, it encapsulates all those good qualities that made many of the classic adventure titles classic. It may not have what it takes to become an undeniable classic itself, but the game is just too good to be let fall into oblivion. Pun intended.

The door is locked.The door is locked.



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