Stories Untold – A Review

You pull up into the driveway of the family holiday home and park the car. It’s dark, but it’s clearly neglected. You remember being told to check the glovebox before going in. You can’t stand to be near this place.

Stories Untold is (as far as I can tell) the first game released by game developer No Code, although it’s certainly not the first game Jon McKellan (founder and designer) has worked on. He used to work for a little company you might have heard of called ‘Rockstar North’. Much like the Netflix TV series Stranger Things which paid homage to life in the 80’s, Stories Untold (heavily inspired by Stranger Things) pays homage to interactive fiction (or text adventure) titles of the early 80’s. Originally released with only the first story ‘The House Abandon’ (which you can still download for free here) another three stories have been added to the collection for Untold Stories.

I should be very clear at this point (as it’s something that caught me out), Stories Untold is not an interactive fiction title in the traditional sense, in fact I’d go so far to say that it’s a puzzle game with IF elements. While you will likely need to take notes you won’t need to draw maps. This is not Zork, and you are not standing in an open field west of a white house. If you are looking for a traditional IF game take a look at Lost Pig and Place Underground which you can play for free online here.

Each of the four stories cast you as a different character in a typically unsettling or horrific situation that starts out mundane and becomes more and more uncomfortable or unpleasant. While the first story is more of a pure IF experience, the later stories will have you interacting a great deal more with other machineries and devices to help solve the puzzle.

Depending on your puzzle solving skills you could complete the entire game in as little as 3 or 4 hours, although it’s not really the game length you’re coming to Stories Untold for but rather the experience. Much like Firewatch (as an example), Untold Stories feels to me to be more of an interactive experience to be enjoyed rather than a video game you are simply trying to beat. Rushing through the game at break neck speed to complete it would be a worthless experience.

I suspect there may be a greater depth to the game than what I sampled on my initial playthrough. Despite finishing the first story there was still a prominent door in the kitchen downstairs that I never opened. While I managed to complete the second story the partial name of my starship seemed important, yet never resurfaced. It’s possible that players will be turning up new things in this title for some time. Without giving away anything there is also quite a lot of chatter about how the stories are connected and what might really be going on. I’m certain the game will develop a small but passionate community searching for answers, although only time will tell if the game is prepared to give them.

in terms of the visuals the game looks fine, they suit the game and do the job. Audio however is fantastic with appropriate sound effects and atmospheric music. Playing the game in the dark alone will add to your game play experience.

My one and only complaint with Stories Untold is the parser for the IF portions of the game. Once ‘Look’ wasn’t sufficient and I spent 10 minutes fluffing around until I had to look up the solution which was ‘Look Around’. Basic commands that we’ve taken for granted in IF don’t work in this title, creating some frustrating moments as you search for the exact command the game is looking for.

The ultimate question with any game review though is should you buy this game? Stories Untold currently sells on Steam for $8.49 USD (~$11.10 AUD) and will rise to $9.99 USD (~$13.05 AUD) at the end of the week. If you are a puzzle enthusiast then it’s definitely worth checking out now, just bear in mind the potentially short play length. For everyone else, pop it on your wishlist and wait for a 50% off (or more) sale in the future. It’s definitely an experience worth sampling and in the meantime don’t forget you can download the first story for free to see if this is for you or not.

SCORE – 75%

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