The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales reminds me a lot of Myst. There’s a mystery to unfold, with a lot of exploration and puzzles to solve. And while the story is intriguing, the execution isn’t great on the Xbox.
Story: You play as Etienne Quist, an author who committed a crime; his punishment is twenty-plus years of writer’s block. He can work off the crime by working for a publisher (which sounds like a harsh punishment in their world) or working with a criminal underground network, stealing valuable items from books. But, as the player, you don’t have a choice; you must work with the underground crime syndicate.
There are two separate parts to the game. When you are in the real world, everything is in first-person perspective. But once you jump into a book, the game changes perspective to an isometric view. I like how different the two worlds feel; this plays nicely into the game's premise. You’ll receive phone calls in the real world from your contact, telling you that a delivery of a new assignment is at your front door. You’ll learn what item to retrieve from the book and then infiltrate the book to steal the object.
You discover a trinket in the first book that talks to you and acts as your conscience. Which gives you a sense that your choices matter. But I felt rail-roaded in much of the game. There are moments when the object tells you to go back to the real world and get a tool to make it past a certain, and if you would rather explore some more, the trinket tells you, “No, you have to go get the tool.”
This leads me to my first complaint about The Bookwalker; outside of one choice, it felt like I didn’t have much of a choice in my actions. From accepting the contracts to decisions in the game, everything feels like I had to accomplish things in a particular order for the story to continue. Even the puzzles are straightforward, with no creativity on my part.
But the biggest issue I have with this game is the controls. When navigating around the book world, the game feels like a point-and-click adventure. And as you walk around the rooms, words will pop up with objects you can interact with. But it’s finicky, and the character walks right past the objects. And there are moments when my character would run into a wall and look around, dumbfounded, when I tried to get him to touch an item against the wall. And moments when I couldn’t even see my character because they walked under an overpass and got stuck against the wall or some other object. This made for a frustrating experience.
There are some other elements the game incorporates as well, like light combat and some crafting. But they aren't a rather deep experience and feel like an add-on to the game.
Final Grade: C-
I like the premise of The Bookwalker - there are some charming moments and creative use of moving from the real world to the books. But it never feels like you have choices in the game, and the puzzles are too linear, and you never feel like you solved any of them; rather, you are forced to solve the puzzles the way the game wants you to solve them. But the biggest issue is the controls. While the game might work well with a mouse, playing with a controller on the Xbox made it challenging to interact with the objects in the game. This made for an unpleasant experience.
Review code provided by Stride PR