Saturday 26 August 2017

Dark Game Review – Stories Untold

Stories Untold is a PC adventure horror game from developer No Code. It’s a game that channels the spirit of the text-adventures of old, but mixes in a dose of the “bigger picture” in its execution. A simpler way of saying it is that, not only does your character interact with the computer in a given scene, but also the equipment and the environment around it.

The game is split into four short episodes, each taking place in a different location and situation. In one, you might be playing a text-based adventure game in a suitably 80's bedroom. In the next, you might be decoding morse code or following an experimental protocol. Stories Untold is a game that very much enjoys giving the player instructions, but also the help needed to carry them out.

I can’t say too much as some of the reveals and twists in Stories Untold are best enjoyed as the narrative unfolds. All I will say is that there is more going on than meets the eye, and it all comes together quite beautifully by the time you’ve finished it. It is a short game, taking me around two hours to complete, but those two hours proved to be structured and paced so well, I am fine with the short playtime. I try not to judge games by how much play time they might offer, but when money is tight, it does become one of my considerations. Stories Untold sells for £6.99 when not on sale, but when it is on offer, you can get it for around half that, which is spot on in my humble opinion.

Graphically, the game does pretty much everything right: the locations and technology all looks suitably analogue, the objects and lighting all realised in an almost tactile way. The only real criticism I have is the cross-shaped pointer that is sometimes easy to lose track of, and that the clickable zones around some of the buttons and dials you need to interact with aren't always easy manipulate without clicking the wrong thing. This didn’t happen often though, so I don’t want to overstate that aspect.

The soundscape of the game is another element that is very well done, and for the most part, provides the most interesting moments of horror. Thumps and other noises hint at the world beyond the walls that your character can see, the voices of other characters and the suitably retro-soundtrack all creating a fuzzy grainy sense of place. Nothing made me jump, but there is a lovely sinister aspect to the things you will see and hear in Stories Untold, like when you crack open an old VHS video box and smell the air of yesteryear tickling your nostril hairs.

Stories Untold is a tremendous game and one that I am very happy to have experienced. When I got to the end, all I could think about was how great another tale, done in the same way, would be. I was also a little unnerved by how enjoyable I found following the various instructions in the game world. On a basic level, you had to do things in a set way to get through the story, but on a mental level, I found the way I interacted with the game world very satisfying indeed. If you enjoy a good 80’s style horror, I think you owe it to yourself to check out Stories Untold.

Review by Casey Douglass