I really wanted to love Stories Untold. With its first episode, I felt the strong potential for my infatuation. Much like looking at the popular kids in highschool, it presents itself with so much style that it’s hard not to be immediately impressed. However, as I learned about its systems and limitations, I began to realize how much of a poser it turned out to be.
Stories Untold opens its pilot episode, a remake of a game released for free last year, with the view of a desk in front of a player, decorated with some family photos, a coffee mug, and most importantly, a computer straight from the 1980s. The premise starts out simple enough – the player controls an interactive text adventure, and while things happen on the TV screen, things will also happen around the room.
When the world around the player changes as the story moves forward, there are a lot of surprises. For example, I found the sound design of the episodes were one of the best parts of the game. All the sound effects are solid and the voice actors do a great job, portraying the a descent into insanity throughout the four episodes. The soundtrack was also good, but emblematic of Stories Untold‘s issue of being too linear and each phase of songs would only unlock as the player progressed through the story.
Each episode introduces the player to more complicated puzzle concepts in a way that was both confusing and frustrating. In episode one, you’re just typing out a text-based adventure like Zork. Except you are limited by a ridiculous amount of linearity in this text adventure. In one scene, I was inside a destroyed building and needed to move away. The game would only accept the input “look around”, to tell me I was trapped under a wreck. Then I had to “look at wreck” to figure out it was metal and moveable, and after that I literally could only input “move metal” to finally move onto the next mini-stage. Entering anything else would bring me back to the first text from before “look around.”
Stories Untold‘s overtly linear and unintuitive solutions to puzzles make me unable to recommend it to fans of text adventures. It just doesn’t offer the freedom of the games that inspired it, which is disappointing, because I’m sure many people would love what the game was initially pitched as. However, I can recommend it to some people based on what I saw in the following episodes. Basically, in each of the subsequent episodes, you are given some tools set around the room, each controlled by the computer you’re typing into. The puzzles get frustratingly obtuse, but I can absolutely understand that some people would like that sort of problem solving.
Overall, Stories Untold was absolutely an interesting experiment that I’m glad I was able to experience. I’d recommend it to those fond of the 80’s style SciFi medias that have been popping up lately, but only if a full guide is posted or you’re a puzzle-solving wiz.
Stories Untold was developed by No Code Studio.
A digital copy of Stories Untold was bought by Sam Adonis for the purpose of this review.
Sam has a passion for a number of things, including disability advocacy, Teddy Roosevelt, and the indie game community. You can often find him talking about World of Warcraft lore or whatever his latest indie game infatuation is. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @IndieSamAdonis