Review for Like No Other: The Legend Of The Twin Books
Like No Other: The Legend Of The Twin Books is a short point-and-click exploration with the heart of a blockbuster adventure, and I was immediately drawn to the stylish hand-drawn art that lends a distinctive visual look; its atmosphere reminds me a bit of Gravity Falls, especially with its warm and vibrant colors. The puzzles and the way the adventure was designed were intended as a family-friendly experience with significantly lower puzzle difficulty, perhaps in the hopes that players may focus on the exploration part. As a whole, the game feels like a prototype or a teaser for a much longer adventure – at least, I wish that was the case - but the closing line at the end seems to hint otherwise at the moment. It was fun while it lasted, but the lack of story exploration stumps its full potential to become a full-blown, comedic adventure that finishes with a bang.
"The unexplored calls to me and I feel alive!" our protagonist Dan says as he drives his jeep to Red Pines, an abandoned city said to have been devastated by an earthquake. Dan is an old man who seems to have recently left an ‘office job’ to find an ancient book hidden somewhere in what’s left of the city. But at the beginning, it wasn’t clear to me what exactly Dan was looking for, other than the hint about a ‘perfect replica’ in the opening cutscene, and why he was searching for it. (Looking back now, the opening subtitle of the game was a dead giveaway, but I didn’t have a clue going in blindly.) I was able to progress thanks to the quests displayed at the top corner of the screen: clear instruction after instruction of where to go or what to do, that gets crossed out once accomplished. Narratively, I felt somewhat disconnected from Dan’s personal journey - I was simply a divine hand helping him uncover something. And this was probably because the quests are made to hold our hands in showing what needs to be done, instead of showing what Dan as a character wants to do.
The game is also an example of the saying "it’s not the destination, it’s the journey", because, although I was intrigued by this big secret that Dan was after, the ending was a tad anti-climactic. The real gem is the fun two-hour journey leading up to that conclusion, with gorgeous environments to explore and refreshing puzzles to tackle. In place of complex brain-squishing puzzles were light puzzles combining 2D and 3D assets, like when Dan has to utilize his jeep to move a statue blocking the road or when he has to find a way to catch a constantly moving cleaning bot. I love how each puzzle felt custom-tailored to the scene, although gathering objects and matching their usage for the environment was still the foundation of the gameplay.
There weren’t a lot of NPCs available to interact with, so most of the feedback I got to understand the world around Dan was from interacting with objects. But in an ocean of items: cans and boxes, broken electronics, dilapidated furniture, only a handful receive funny or significant remarks from Dan. Many of these interactive elements get brushed off with a few variations of ‘I don’t need this’ or ‘Nothing for me here’, which is understandable because there might be too many objects lying around to cover. These filler interactive elements might’ve been included to add a bit of challenge and create a sense of realism while trying to find useful items among junks and oddments. However, Dan’s repetitive response can become a bit stale when there are many objects to check in one area.
Mysterious collectibles dubbed as ‘caches’ are also available for players to track down, but nothing happened after collecting all the required items in the first area. Unfortunately, I haven’t managed to collect all of these caches in the second half of the game, so the effect of this collectible is still unknown (to me). Playing it on Steam, there is a Steam achievement waiting to be unlocked for this, but I’m not sure how or if achieving this would affect the game’s story.
Still, those details don’t take away the fun of progressing through and discovering new locations thanks to the well-designed colors throughout the environments. On top of the detailed illustrations, the lights and shadows tie everything together. Each lighting decision highlights important spots or draws the player’s attention just enough toward the puzzles we must solve. When Dan walks around the environment, it really feels like he is part of that world. The dynamic illumination and shadow effects, created by blending 3D and 2D graphics, enhance the game's visuals. Elements like the flowing creek in the museum hallway, swaying grass and plants as Dan walks by, and the hand-operated elevator that takes Dan between floors seamlessly integrate with the hand-drawn background, making the environment feel more tangible.
Inside these weathered buildings, we’re only often accompanied by Dan’s footsteps as he roams about, with the occasional cricket chirps, signaling that nature has reclaimed the town. Each location has its own sounds, like the wind howling when Dan is in a higher building or the faint hum of a generator in the museum. Subtle beats and light music flows in and out ever so smoothly, escalating emotions or highlighting funny moments, depending on the scene. Traversing these abandoned locations was often a quiet experience, led only by Dan’s expressively voiced remarks and an iconic ‘Ding’ sound that can be heard whenever a quest has just been cleared, directing players to check out their next objective.
In the end, while we never really learned Dan’s motivation for finding the book and its importance, he seemed to have a ton of fun along the way. It might’ve been a story about going on one last adventure in one’s sunset years - but he doesn’t seem like the melancholic type. Finishing this game left me with so many questions, and it’s curious how the game could feel both finished and unfinished simultaneously. For all the gorgeous visual worldbuilding and the fun puzzles it features, the story was largely still shrouded in mystery. Why the abandoned town stayed abandoned, where did the people go, why no one took these treasures in the museum, and so on; these burning questions were unfortunately left unanswered even until the epic credits rolled.
If there eventually is a sequel or an expansion of the game, hopefully Like No Other: The Legend Of The Twin Books will delve deeper into its characters and story, leaving us rooting for them in its action-packed adventure. Its charming art style and unique puzzles certainly provide a nice foundation for an epic point-and-click saga for players of all ages to enjoy.