The best thing about books is that they are real “portals” to alternative, fantastic worlds that are foreign to us. At least once in a lifetime we will be completely smitten with a story and, thanks to our imagination and the skill of the author, move through it as if we were non-paying, omniscient spectators.
The Bookwalker: Thief of Stories It allows us to experience a book firsthand, and the portal is not just a metaphor showing our strong identification with a story, it becomes a reality.
Etienne Quist, protagonist of the video game developed by do my best is a creative soul who falls prey to every pen-and-paper pro’s worst nightmare: writer’s block. However, that’s not all that happened to Etienne.
The world of The Book Wanderer reminds a little of one of the greatest books of the 20th century: 1984 by George Orwell; in the English writer’s great classic, the lives of the citizens were under the exhaustive control of the Thought Police; In the video game developed by Do My Best, there is a similar police force that closely monitors those who write books. There are laws that govern any work written on printed paper, both narratively and creatively.
Etienne is subdued by the police for a serious crime, the nature of which is not specified; However, we are led to believe that it is definitely related to a narrative work of his. What did all of this entail? The most debilitating fact, at least physically, is that Large chains on his wrists that in no way prevent him from holding the pen to write.
Furthermore, after losing his job and all his belongings, Etienne – whose age is unknown – lives in a cramped apartment where he is shunned by his neighbors, certainly due to his criminal record.
However, not only Etienne Quist probably wrote something wrong or uncomfortable: the boy has the ability to travel in books, to catapult themselves as if they were fantastic portals.
The pen hurts more than the sword
The game begins with our protagonist being contacted by phone by characters whose identities are unknown and who want to use his extraordinary abilities to their advantage. So we are faced with the first task of these shady characters who are going to leave a big suitcase in front of the front door.
Once opened, it contains some information from the author about the item to be stolen, a strange metal compartment in which to insert items and finally the book in which we are supposed to “dive”.
In the universe of The Book Wandererthe book and the real world are inseparable – objects of the real world can be put into books and as a prerequisite for stealing books Everything in the volumes can be brought back to the real world. It appears that the Bookwalker’s actions affect the printed press and that the theft of these items actually affects the content and conclusion of the book.
This premise is interesting because the first time we enter a book is certainly a fascinating moment. Etienne is transported to a kind of medieval prison, with cages, barrels and skulls of poor prisoners. The first question we asked ourselves was this:why are we here? Should we try to escape?».
There we will find the narrator who will guide us through the adventure, but eventually the prison will be just a simple stage in a futuristic laboratory; this reality in fiction it just reminded us of the cult movie The Truman Show in a sense in which everything that appears real is not real – but in the end, reality and fiction mix and inevitably influence each other.
The Book Wanderer it consists of seven short stories in which we shall commit our crimes, and this is only the first; However we will not be the only guests and will be here from time to time attacked by fearsome enemies ready to put a spanner in the works.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
The playing style The game looks very simple and basic.
It is divided into two separate parts: the real world and the world of books. In the real world, the game takes place in the first-person perspective. Here players can interact with objects, read notes and talk to other characters, such as neighbors.
Once you’ve flipped through the book cover, the game switches to an isometric perspective from above, which broadly reminds us of the Splendid style Disk Elysium.
We’ll explore the places where the book’s story takes place, experiencing the plot with the goal of finding and stealing the item requested by the group that entrusted us with this enterprise.
Each world has its own theme and often presents a completely different setting to its predecessors – and that’s definitely a plus, as there are different environments and themes to explore, with a variety that encourages the player to become curious and discover what lies “beyond”.
However, we regret to say that this “beyond” arrives, but does not leave the desired effect; Stories often bring us to an important crossroads that may seem extremely important from a plot point of view: can we steal this object or not? Should we save the book’s protagonist or leave him to his fate, knowing full well that this will have repercussions in the real world?
The choice is ours, but the noticeable difference in the result is almost zeroAside from a few different lines of dialogue, there aren’t really any lasting consequences and each story ends and then makes way for another, as if the narrative were contained within The Book Wanderer was part of a TV series with several self-contained episodes.
The game offers choices, but our influence in reality is very small.
In any case, within the stages established in the books we can interact with objects, craft tools with the resources collected in the game in special “workbenches” and solve environmental puzzles to advance in the game. As a bookwalker, the player also has the opportunity to use this mystical resource but limited, called Ink to gain power over a specific object or location and allow him to bend the world to his will.
However, The existing puzzles do not pose a challenge for the playerthe game has a relatively easy level of difficulty and the support of the narrator Roderick is not always successful – on the contrary, he gives us somewhat confusing advice that we find difficult to follow.
Not surprisingly, we felt a little lost at times; In order to advance, we need a fairly specific object. Do we have to create it with our resources or do we have to snoop around in the real world to find it? This aspect had us running in circles for the first few hours of the game, thanks to a design that was not always in focus.
Although for some the setting was particularly inspirational woody movements of the protagonist have led us to frustration, Etienne sometimes seems “stuck” in barriers that don’t really exist, his movements are slow and clumsy.
Certainly, given its point-and-click nature, it would have been easy to use the mouse and keyboard, but unfortunately, especially in the “book” sessions, the game fails to achieve the fluidity and naturalness of movements that would have helped it.
Finally, The Book Wanderer has a combat system that it adds nothing substantial. It is represented as a system of turn-based RPG combatbut it has neither depth nor meaning in the game’s narrative: it rather leaves the feeling that the developers tried to add a mechanic that could enrich the experience, but to no avail.
There Artistic Director From The Book Wanderer It’s a flagship: the world inside the books has very inspired graphics, a little reminiscent of watercolor drawings, and the “tones” of the story are faithfully reproduced.
Even the protagonists of the books seem interesting, if not very deep psychologically, and support the basis of the story in which Etienne moves; The world of books is certainly the most fascinating, not only from a narrative point of view, but above all from a visual point of view. Real life, on the other hand, is boring, rigid, linear and without any special “frills”.
The sound gets a special touch with a good English dubbing; The soundtrack is somber, enveloping and well-groomed. As for the localization, the title is translated into English and Russian and our Italian language is absent; However, it does not appear to be difficult to understand – especially English – and the adventure is certainly fun for those who know little about the Anglo-Saxon language.
The strange thing is that this seems to be limited to the Xbox game as the lyrics in the PC version should also be in our language. Is it just about waiting for a patch that brings other languages to consoles as well?
We didn’t find any potential bugs or the like, other than the woodiness and lack of fluidity in the character’s movements. The Xbox Series S version is particularly good and well-curated.
The game developed by Do My Best is not particularly durable, they are needed five to six hours for completing the story.
Each story can be completed in about an hour if you’re quick enough; As we looked at the achievements, we noticed that they were there Some objectives can be achieved by choosing the alternative option to the one chosen in the first run. For collectors, this can be “tempting” as you can see different lines of dialogue; However, as mentioned earlier, there is no real end result that rewards the decision made.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of The Book Wanderer is that it has a great premise and manages to “tie” you to your chair in the wee hours, but the game’s brevity meant that The pacing of the stories was a bit confusing.
This made the characters in the game difficult to engage with and care for, especially since their “fictional” lives are irrelevant to the real world.
Maybe it would have been better for developers to make connections between the real world and the world of books, so things you do in books have more tangible consequences in real life.
However, this aspect was never explored in the game and so it’s easy to ignore someone in the books, as what happens in real life logically takes precedence. In this way, the game loses its narrative and conceptual substance, as if it were an outwardly well-edited but internally poorly-edited book. And for a work that focuses on the power of stories, that’s no small sin.