What’s an episodic horror adventure-puzzle game? Well, apparently that’s exactly what we have here in Stories Untold. It also mixes in some walking sim and text-adventure to boot. It’s a melting pot of genres that can add a little suspense to solving puzzles. While I would not label this a horror game, there are elements of suspense that could be scary in a minor way. It’s more of a soft tension. There’s a little bit of life drama involved that I think is the key takeaway after finishing it. I’ll leave it up to you to soak up that message.
Here’s what I liked:
More Than Puzzles — Most puzzle games start easy and become more difficult as you progress. In Stories Untold, each chapter introduces something completely different. From a text-based game on a computer to wandering inside a building in first-person, they each provide a unique experience. It saves it from being too repetitive and helps give excitement to get to the next chapter. Seeing what’s next is part of the fun. It also challenges you to think differently each time you have to solve a puzzle. That’s what makes it almost difficult to figure out what genre it is because it blends in a few almost poetically.
A Little Panic — There is an overall unsettling feeling while playing. It starts at the beginning. You’re choosing options on an old computer. Suddenly you realize what you’re choosing is actually happening. It was unexpected and on the border of brilliant. I almost wanted to stop choosing options. The next chapter puts you in an almost setting reminiscent of the movie Saw. You’re working on an experiment and something just doesn’t feel right. Then you find yourself in what appears to be Antarctica (or somewhere similar). The sensation that there is no help out there and you’re stranded. Finally, the last section is more like you’re lost in an unfamiliar building. The ending circles back to being on the computer, except there are a lot more options to choose from. It’s nice to get so many different kinds of panic in one sitting.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Should Have Stayed Untold — I won’t really ruin the ending for you, but it’s a bit on the unbelievable side. If it was decades ago then it might have worked. These days, there’s too much testing and technology to “pull one over” like what was attempted in the story. I’ll also mention it’s a little bit hard to follow. While I liked the changing of scenery, it was hard to connect the dots on what exactly was going on. That is until you realize what’s being connected. That part is awesome! Movies that tell stories like this usually win awards in the intelligent way they bring it all together, no matter how confusing it may be. What was disappointing was there was zero character development. And yes, I know what the game is trying to do. I just don’t believe the average person would make the bad choice that is supposed to help relate to the “protagonist”. Again, I’m trying hard not to give anything away but I feel the need to explain myself because not doing so will just look like I didn’t understand. It’s hard to relate and empathize with something most people wouldn’t do. So while the way in which realization happens is great, the actual plot makes it a wasted effort.
And We’re Done — Being able to finish a game in one sitting isn’t always a bad thing. Maybe with the puzzles involved, some people may take much longer. I happened to get the hang of it pretty well and was able to complete it very fast. There is zero content to go back to. No collectibles, no hard mode, just “one and done”. There are two ways to extend the value of a game. One is to just make it longer, and another is to sprinkle things to go back to. Something that makes you feel that you’re not done, even after the rolling credits. If you’ve got all the achievements, which are easy to do, then you really have no reason to go back to it.
What happens if you fail? Well, that never happened to me. Maybe it can happen, but it was too straight forward to lose. Some of the puzzles were really fun. I enjoyed the Antartica chapter quite a lot and it was the best set of brain teasers in the game. Design is above par and there were no technical issues while playing. I especially loved the blending of genres. It never got boring. However, it ended far too soon. The story was a little messy and the big “surprise ending” was disappointing. A few confusing scenes, specifically during the lab, were a bit over the top. I think overall it’s an average game but without anything else to do after the credits roll, know that you won’t be spending much time with it.
Score: Reader’s Choice
Stories Untold was published by Devolver Digital and developed by No Code on Xbox One. It was released on October 27, 2020, for $9.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.