Book Quest Review (Switch)

Book Quest Review: A Charming Indie Throwback

 

Book Quest

To look at Book Quest you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a straight-up Zelda clone, and, to an extent, it often feels that way when playing. What you might be surprised to hear, however, is that not only does this lean on the retro action-adventure genres that were clearly an inspiration, but it also leans heavily into the type of excruciating difficulty that is likely to trouble even the most seasoned fans of From Software’s work. If that piques your interest, read on to see if this familiar yet surprising little charmer is worth your time.

 

A Trope-Filled Narrative

 

Book Quest

Truth be told, Book Quest doesn’t exactly put its best foot forwards in its opening moments. Taking on the role of a nameless protagonist, you awaken in your home one night to notice that an intruder has made off with a magical book that once belonged to your grandfather. After being visited by a ghostly apparition of him one night, you learn that he was a powerful wizard and the now stolen book was actually a spell book containing his most powerful secrets and spells. The spells were documented in the hopes that one day, one of his descendants would find the book and pursue his missing wife, who vanished some years ago.

It’s awfully contrived stuff. There are no efforts made to build the world out beyond the opening reveals, with there being very little context given to those reveals either. Why was my grandfather a wizard? Why am I only finding this out now? Where is my father, and why was he never given this quest that I’m about to embark on? These are all questions I asked myself within moments of booting Book Quest up, and unfortunately, they were questions that remained as I put Book Quest down just before writing this review. Unfortunately, Book Quest doesn’t exactly have a coherent plot, with the developers instead opting to stitch together a number of generic maguffins in an attempt to give the journey ahead some purpose. Thankfully, that journey is a decent amount of fun to play through despite the lack of a compelling, overarching plot.

 

Familiar Combat

 

Book Quest

Once you embark on your quest to retrieve your belongings, Book Quest provides a decent amount of fun through its gameplay. As with the genre greats that inspired it, you’ll spend a lot of time exploring its three main biomes, engaging with enemies, solving puzzles, and taking down huge, hulking bosses, all before going back to town to turn in currency towards equipment upgrades.

Things quickly fall into a familiar pattern. You enter an area, get directed towards the boss, and solve a number of environmental puzzles whilst taking out a number of enemies before being able to engage with the boss of the biome. Combat, however, is the main focus, and thankfully it’s serviceable. If you’ve ever played a top-down Zelda game, you’ll know what to expect here; the majority of your time will be spent managing space, dodging away from enemies, whilst using your trusty blade to take simple swings at your foes. It’s simple stuff, perhaps too simple given the lack of interesting AI and the familiar combat patterns that soon emerge due to the lack of variety in enemy move-sets. Having said that, the aim was clearly to capture the feel of old-school, top-down adventure combat, and on that front, Book Quest’s combat is a competent portrayal of its inspirations.

 

Nightmarish Bosses

 

Book Quest

It’s when you finally make it to the boss of an area, that Book Quest manages to elevate itself from an inoffensive throwback to something that I genuinely enjoyed my time with. The reason for that? The boss encounters basically turn Book Quest into a grueling test of the player’s reflexes and ability to read boss patterns.

I was absolutely stunned the first time I walked into the boss arena in the first biome, and was immediately floored by an enormous dragon that wiped me out with a couple of hits. It was here that I realized Book Quest was a game that wanted me to fail, so I quickly settled into that routine of memorizing boss attack patterns and mechanics that I find so damn satisfying. Admittedly, it’s not a design choice that is going to appeal to everyone, and the difficulty spikes presented in these encounters do feel like a bit of a bait and switch given the cutesy art style and cakewalk that the rest of the title is. If, like me, though, you revel in these sorts of sadistic boss encounters that pile on the difficulty to the extent that never quite feels unfair, but is always on the cusp of it, then you will find a lot to like here.

There are times when frustration begins to set in. While the bosses never feel unfair in their mechanics, Book Quest can, unfortunately, suffer from some slightly awkward hit detection. Against the standard enemies that populate the overworld, this typically posed no issue, given things were never frantic enough that I didn’t have time to dodge away and recover following a whiffed attack. The boss battles, however, leave so little room for error, that a flawless run can end in seconds due to hits not registering on the boss. It crops up when evading attacks as well, as I found myself getting caught by attacks that I looked to be well clear of. It’s not a frequent enough issue to be a deal breaker, but it was still something that brought some great boss runs to an abrupt end on occasion.

 

Inconsistent Presentation

 

Book Quest

The visuals were one of the key appeals to me when Book Quest first came to my attention, and I’m happy to say that the pixelated art style is pleasing to the eye, irrespective of whether you’re traversing the forest, snow-filled, or beach like biome. I do wish there was a little more effort put into the enemy variety, but what’s here works, and given Book Quest can be seen through in a few hours, it’s not a huge issue.

Audio, on the other hand, has been handled pretty poorly. The soundtrack will randomly cut out, which leaves you exploring in eerie silence until it fixes itself and loops back in. Combat sound effects are also hit and miss, with some hits registering and producing the intended impact noise, whilst others produced no sound at all. The inconsistencies with combat sound effects were of particular frustration as they are often the only tool you have when it comes to assessing whether you connected with an opponent. With very little visual feedback, audio cues become even more important, so a little more reliability in this department would have been appreciated.

 

Conclusion

 

 

While it isn’t going to be an easy sell for many due to the difficulty spikes that arise in the form of its demanding bosses, I ultimately came away from Book Quest satisfied with the final product. Sure, it wasn’t the laid-back, Zelda-clone I was expecting and presented a challenge that came as a shock, but that was ultimately the best thing about it.  If you can look past the, at times, inconsistent hitboxes, and frequent audio bugs, then Book Quest provides a satisfying evening’s worth of, at times, hardcore action that I hope finds an audience.


Final Verdict: 3/5

Available On: Switch (reviewed), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC; Publisher: eastasiasoft; Developer: eastasiasoft, Nerd Games; Players: 1; Released: 10 August, 2022; ESRB: E10+; MSRP: $6.99

Shane Boyle
Shane's passion for gaming began many moons ago upon receiving his first console, Sega's Master System. These days, he games across a variety of systems, though he primarily sticks to his PlayStation 5 and Series X. Despite enjoying a wide variety of genres, he has a huge soft spot for RPGs, both Western and Japanese, whilst also being a self-professed Destiny 2 addict. Outside of gaming, Shane enjoys live music (as long as it's rock or metal!) and going to stand-up comedy shows, and is also Father to a little boy who he hopes will one day be raiding alongside him in Destiny!

Join Our Discord!

Join Our Discord!

Click the icon above to join our Discord! Ask a Mod or staff member to make you a member to see all the channels.

Review Archives

  • 2022 (289)
  • 2021 (523)
  • 2020 (302)
  • 2019 (158)
  • 2018 (251)
  • 2017 (427)
  • 2016 (400)
  • 2015 (170)
  • 2014 (89)
  • 2013 (28)
  • 2012 (8)
  • 2011 (7)
  • 2010 (6)