Impressions: The Book Of Living Magic

A typical evening in RPS's local.

I have been told to play The Book Of Living Magic by so many people. Even Jay of JayIsGames instructed me to do so. A point and click adventure embedded in a website, that has variously been described as charming and reminiscent of the joy of childhood books. So okay, okay, I took a look.

And did not like it.

Which has really thrown me. Recommendations from many who know, and a real desire for any game based on such themes, set me up to assume I was going into something great. But for some reason this one completely passed me by.

It’s cute. Hand drawn scenes, seemingly drawn in crayon/marker, really stretch the limits of “crudely drawn”. But for me don’t in any way evoke children’s drawings, which I suppose was the aim. Instead it looks like an adult doing a deliberately bad job. Your method of interaction is to talk to people, and then later click on them when you’ve been given an item. And that’s it.

The writing is extremely silly, and very lengthy – and all is written well. But again, it didn’t seem to be saying anything. Just long-winded nonsense and cod-fantasy names, with the occasional comment generating a scribbling sound which means you’ve unlocked another conversation option with someone else. There is no subtlety here either. For instance, the star, Raven Locks Smith, grows up in a town called Dull. Right.

What I did love was the amazing effort that had gone into writing a description for almost every detail on screen. Here the game had me. Silly jokes, daft remarks, for every doodle, mostly offering barmy non-sequiturs that made for fun and pointless pixel hunting. When faced with image after image of dozens of plant-like eyeballs, it’s a real treat that each of them has their own joke, whether it’s a pun, bizarre remark, or something genuinely surreal.

But then it was over and gave some sort of attempted heart-felt plea about the importance of my role in the Book Of Living Magic that I didn’t feel was at all earned.

I’m sorry, everyone. From the adoration it’s received by the right people, I guess this one’s just me. So definitely check it out and see where you fall.

23 Comments

  1. Erlend M says:

    This crudely drawn style reminds me a little of Life of D. Duck. It’s sort of a Donald Duck adventure game, which pretends to be made by a Norwegian child with poor English skills and worse drawing skills. Actually surprisingly good and frequently hilarious.

  2. Mr Chug says:

    It’s a labour of love, no question, but after 5 or 6 screens I started to wish the creator had spent less time writing a wall of text for every character in the game and actually put some thought into making a satisfying game to play. Top marks for effort, but I couldn’t summon the will from myself to finish it.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s interactive fiction, goofus. It’s inherently textual. You can’t play the ‘tl;dr’ card on that.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yes, I tried reading Game of Thrones the other day, but it has SO many words!

    • Cinnamon says:

      Interactive fiction is something different, not this. The difference is that in interactive fiction you tend to spend more time writing it than reading it.

    • Dozer says:

      @Cinnamon – if we had your surname we could make a law, like Murphy’s Law, from that sentence. “Interactive fiction must take longer to write than to read” – Surname’s Law. Alas, the Internet is anonymous.

    • Mr Chug says:

      Don’t get me wrong, I loved the text; well written and mostly enough to raise at least a smile. I just didn’t love the mechanism for delivering said text. I’m sure if the author released a book I’d love it, but as a point and click game it lacked focus.

    • Ben says:

      Yeah, I gave up upon meeting the second character with a very long list of conversation topics entitled with words I didn’t understand and hadn’t been introduced to.

  3. MikoSquiz says:

    The visuals look excellent to me. Like the drawings of an incredibly talented child, rather than an adult doing a bad job.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yes, I think the drawings just look good. I know I couldn’t draw to that standard.

    • Tei says:

      Realism is just a tecnique. This drawings are actually good. I think the face expresions (robot, barman raptor jesus, terrytoad, eye and inspired wizard) are good. The general idea is very good.
      I remember having this discussion with a friend. I am normally the one that say that romanic paintings are crappy, while he defend the idea that the romans painted something more ideal, than realism can “obscure” the idea that you want to transmit, so “comic like” graphics are a better way to transmit ideas. Perspective is optional to transmit ideas, and sometimes can get in the way. Like… you want to show that the lake is made of blood. So you paint the bottom of the boat red. Actually, if you where to draw that realistically, the bottom will not be visible, but if where visible, it would be too dark to see the red. And blood outside of the human body tend to be more brown than red.
      Welll.. thats what he say. I still say that romanic is ugly. Mostly for trolling points.

      You can learn how to draw photorealist,.. if thats what you want, but the merit of drawing a human face perfectly or something like that is not too high… everyone can do it with enough training.

  4. brog says:

    I went into this fairly skeptical – adventure games are Not My Thing, and there’s a lot of text that I started by skipping over at first. But as it went on I found myself actually reading all the text, and enjoying it! (I read voraciously, but it’s rare that a game’s text is worth my time.) A charming little game.

  5. kitzkar says:

    The game’s music is absolutely charming!

  6. Cinnamon says:

    I know the feeling John is describing. I would mention a couple of more mainstream game names but I don’t really feel like going there again right now.

  7. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I didn’t much care about the ending. It was fun encountering the strange / funny and wondering where it all would lead. A bit of the nonsensical and strangeness akin to that of Alice in wonderland, perhaps.

  8. Auspex says:

    @DrGonzo

    I agree with your sentiment and I love GRRM but… the ASOIAF books /do/ have too many words.

    • Auspex says:

      Oh no a reply fail; I though this only happened to other people :(

    • Baines says:

      A reply fail, but an accurate sentiment. With a good editor, Feast for Crows and Dance with Dragons would have been a single book and released years ago.

    • Betamax says:

      Eh, I disagree. I actually like their lengthy wordiness, can’t imagine them any other way. Not as if they are difficult reads anyhow.

  9. Tei says:

    Oh. This game is great!, I love all the crazyness. And also has a good style to it.

  10. ax23000 says:

    I typed out a somewhat confrontational reply to these impressions and then realized I wasn’t really being fair to the author of the impressions. I will only say that all you need to do is look at the glowing user rating on Jayisgames which sits at a 4.8 out of 5 with 270 votes cast to realize that this writer is a part of a very small minority.

    Personally this is one of my favorite web games. People who like it should check out the longer and more involved “The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge”, which is set in the same universe and features the same wonderful art and fantastic writing.

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    Skabooga says:

    Sort of a silly, feel-good little game that left me in a pleasant mood. I second ax23000’s recommendation for those interested.

  12. Betamax says:

    A lovely idea, I enjoyed it.