“Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is? Insanity is doing the exact same fucking thing over and over again, expecting shit to change. That..is..crazy. But the first time I solved a puzzle that way I thought they were bullshitting me so boom, I ignored it. The thing is…okay.. it was right. And then I started seeing everywhere I looked. Everywhere I looked all these fucking puzzles doing the exact…same fucking thing. Over and over and over and over and over again. Thinking, this time it’s going to be different. No, no, no, no, no please! This time it’s going to be different. I am sorry, I don’t like the way this game plays, Okay? You have a fucking problem in your head? Do you think I’m bullshitting you? Do you think I am lying? Fuck you!”
The Critter Chronicles is the sequel to The Book of Unwritten Tales which was released by developer King Art in July of 2012. King Art is a German developer, meaning that their games are initially developed in German and later dubbed in English. The premise of The Critter Chronicles is simple, a fantasy point-and-click adventure with slight tongue-in-cheek humor thrown in for good measure. This begs the question of what this game does to stand out from the many, already well-established point-and-click adventures that exist today.
The first thing that struck me when starting the game was the presentation. The game puts it’s all into looking the part of a rich fantasy adventure. A menu which features a book as your interface along with candles and many other aesthetically pleasing effects make it seem like it’s almost part of the adventure itself. It is a menu very similar to Magika’s and, while a simple idea, gives a nice feeling of homeliness to it. There are no extra tacked on choices or options in the menu. What you get is a bare bones adventure game that asks you if you going to start the game or just quit. The in-game menu can be somewhat irritating at times with your inventory popping up each time you try to interact with an object. If there is one thing to be said about the game’s presentation it’s that the backgrounds are incredible. Many of the games “scenes” carry on top of lovingly crafted areas with vivid colours and fantasy stylization as far as the eye can see. The backgrounds are far from static canvases as many of the items can be interacted with, useful or not. While both the game’s music and voice acting are decent, they lack any real spice to them. The voice actors seem uninterested and while the music is well composed, it lacks distinction. The writing of the Critter Chronicles is often childish and relies on references to pop culture and many clichés for its humour. It will then throw a curve ball with a well-disguised adult joke every now and then.
As a point-and-click adventure game, there’s little in the way of “gameplay.” However, this does not stop the Critter Chronicles from making it cumbersome as all hell. The inventory is paramount to this game. You will be checking it every time you need to learn about, combine, or use any item. You access the inventory by placing your cursor at the bottom of the screen and, unfortunately, this can block items in the environment. This may be a minor complaint as it does not occur all too often, but it’s always the easily fixed issues that are the worst. Navigating your character by clicking on a point in the environment was an arduous task. When running back and forward between previously explored areas, it quickly became apparent that it was a big problem.
The puzzles are the game’s main focus. You will spend your time gathering objects to combine and use on the environment. Quite possibly every combination warrants the label of ludicrous, with you attaching the most non-combinable odds and ends to make some sort of super crazy item. The solutions to many of the game’s puzzles are often too counter-intuitive and will have you trying every possible combination on every item in the environment just to get ahead. At one point I needed to retrieve hot sugar from a pan. This was too hot to pick up with my hands so I had to use a screwdriver (obviously). It was this kind of lack of clarity in the solutions that had me backtracking more than progressing in the game’s story. Some of the things in the environment will yield different dialogue options if you click on them multiple times. It’s one thing to have completely unintuitive solutions to puzzles, but to expect the user to click on the same thing again and again until the exhaust it’s “usefulness” is quite simply insane.
Later on in the game you will control a new character known as a “Critter” which is identical to Sesame Street’s Yip Yips. Unlike the protagonist, they cannot comment on the objects in the environment in English which serves as a great way to add an extra layer of confusion. Once both characters have been introduced you will then take control of both of them at will in the same level. Each of them allow for multiple different interactions with the environment and characters in the game which was quite an interesting feature. There are sections of the game in which you will be moving to and from the same old three possible environments that seem to add new options to them as you progress. Yet again, this will have you visiting areas you think you have already explored over and over in the hope that something will change.
Overall the Critter Chronicles is a charming point-and-click that all too often hinders its puzzle solving with vein attempts at quirkiness. I’m all for lack of seriousness in videogames but I need some grounding in reality in order to progress in the first place. The story and writing itself can be somewhat uninspired at times, but can occasionally surprise you. When the game boils down to awkward challenges getting in the way of the story you would like to see the end of, it really inhibits the motivation to continue. If you repeat the same task over and over in real life and expect things to change, you’re insane. If you do it in this game, you’re a winner. The Critter Chronicles is the spiritual successor Far Cry 3 and will have you losing your marbles (which you should have combines with a screwdriver) in no time.