Sometimes you get to read a choose-your-own-adventure book, other times it’s the book that chooses the adventure for you. That is the journey we are called to undertake in The Bookwalker, as we travel from book to book in search of our redemption while discovering the secrets underneath. Turn the page of our The Bookwalker review and let’s begin.
The world of The Bookwalker hates writers – they have to be controlled and their every move must be watched (hey, it must be a present-day adventure). Except for the original writers, who died a long time ago, all others need to be controlled and kept under a leash. Those who do not obey shall be shackled. This is how the game begins, with our protagonist already shackled, which is why he agrees to carry out a series of shady jobs.
Each job requires us to infiltrate a book, where the game switches from first person to third person as a way of reflecting the change in the “author”. There, we have to bring back a particular item while solving puzzles and getting into a couple of fights here and there. Think of the Bookwalker as a Disco Elysium-inspired point-and-click adventure, with some first-person sequences and light RPG fights.
Each book has its little own atmosphere and story, with many clever little fourth-wall-breaking moments here and there. Accompanying our adventures is a mysterious creature who we can interact with via microphone and who is always with us to guide our next steps. While the puzzles in Bookwalker are generally not difficult, choices matter, so being careful is always recommended. A quick slip of the pen, or rather the tongue, might plunge you into a difficult fight.
Perhaps, there’s even a bit too much hand-holding here and there. For example, while it is possible to bring an item from the real world to the books, the game will always clearly suggest when it is time to do so. Perhaps, leaving it up to the player to understand the right moment might have been more interesting. Also, while there’s a bit of lore building in the various books, each section is not long enough to actually get involved in the little stories.
In the second book, we are thrust into a battle between humans and robots, with fed-up workers wanting to burn down a factory. But we don’t have enough information to really connect with anything about the events in this book. Sure, we might be sad that we’re deactivating robots because we need their batteries (and the writing REALLY hammers the point home), but it is not easy to care about the whole ordeal when we’ve barely been there for 15 minutes.
Still, the overall world-building in Bookwalker is done via little details and touches, which work great, instead of assaulting the player with information. The juxtaposition of first-person and third-person adventure always works great, and it is refreshing to go back and forth between the colorful fantasy of the books and the drab shallow reality of our tiny apartment and distrustful neighbors.
Combat takes place in turns and we’ll be using ink as “mana” but also to carry out most fighting actions. We get to see the enemies’ intentions for their next turns and we have a couple of different attacks. Overall, it works but it is not really entertaining, nor does it feel like a necessary addition to the gameplay. But it is also not possible to skip it entirely.
Crafting is unfortunately another feature that they decided to add, which I believe could have been skipped entirely. While examining chests and boxes, we get the chance to take almost everything that is not nailed down. These items can be used to craft crowbars or lockpicks we might need to proceed, along with using them to refill our ink power. This does not really add much to the overall experience and feels more like a last-minute idea thrown in because crafting is popular.
Graphically, the third-person adventure mode really seems Disco Elysium infused, and even the portraits do seem like they came out of that game. This is not a complaint at all, since The Bookwalker does a great job in creating a tangible atmosphere and making each book feel unique. Unfortunately, not much going on sound-wise though, as there is just sound effects, grunts and voices and some slight touches of musical soundtrack here and there.
The Bookwalker is a fascinating example of juxtaposing narrative and gameplay by filtering them through the lens of a fictional character diving into different fictional worlds. While the game would have been better just as a pure adventure, without unnecessary combat or pointless crafting, it remains an intriguing proposition that teases more adventures in the world. A promising first game which definitely does need a sequel. Adventure lovers won’t want to skip this one.
Our The Bookwalker review was made possible with a key provided by Stride PR. The game is available on Steam and will be available on Game Pass as well.
The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales: While bogged down by some unnecessary mechanics, The Bookwalker is a solid adventure game in a world stuck between delicious fiction and harsh reality. – Damiano Gerli