STAFF REVIEW of Stories Untold (Xbox One)


Tuesday, November 17, 2020.
by Heather Webster

Stories Untold Box art Stories untold is a single player narrative driven adventure game that includes a mix of classic experimental text adventure, point and click and more. A mystery anthology where four short stories come together to make one encompassing narrative, making you feel like you are playing in a game-within-a-game. Or as I like to call it 'Game Inception'!

When the story begins you start out with chapter "The house Abandon". It's difficult to review because spoilers would be a massive disservice, so I'll do my best not to spoil the surprises. You first find yourself sitting down in an 80's-esque environment to boot up your sweet new text based adventure game.


The first chapter, which is purely in the old-school text adventure style, has the most effective use of this mechanic, despite being the most basic. Later chapters incorporate some puzzles, point-and-click elements and even first-person exploration, reminding me of a more modernized escape game format. There are a few puzzles within, but they are either too easy or too difficult. The bulk of the second and third chapters ask players to follow a direction and then carry it out but mid-game ends up feeling tedious. Then, on the other extreme, there are brain teasers where the information is presented in a series of oversized, rapidly flashing pictures that are hard to make out. I found myself wishing to return to the old narrative text style which, although less complex than these “puzzles”, had a unique hook that is virtually absent today.

The second chapter takes place at a lab where you perform an experiment on a mysterious artifact – this is where things become a bit more mysterious. The third ups the ante by pitting you in a station where you communicate using codes. Finally, the fourth... Let’s just say that all of my descriptions thus far simply skim the surface, and the fourth chapter makes sense of what’s really happening throughout the game, putting it all together.


The gameplay is easy to figure out, although younger players and non-gamers not used to the genre may find it clunky and the controls difficult at times. It can also get a little painful in the hands while playing due to the length of time having to try to hold the screen in place to be able to read the story happening on the screen.

Essentially, you spend much of the game looking at a monitor, whether an old television screen or a computer display. The monitor is actually part of a set piece, so you can also see the desk that the monitor sits on, as well as other details like photo frames and a flickering light. A textual narrative appears on the “screen within a screen”, telling a story. You respond to the text by inputting commands. For instance, if you are in front of a house you can input “Look around”, “Use key”, “Open front door,” or other related phrases to interact with the world around you. Some nonsensical commands, like “Go key” won’t work, but others will progress the story. The challenge lies in paying attention to the story and discovering which actions will work.


The sense of subversion is what truly makes Stories Untold stand out. The developer stitches in its scares by going beyond the text, giving credence to the set piece design. The backgrounds alter, images flash and voiced dialogue gives you a sense of confusion and dread. The changes are sometimes subtle enough that discovering them made me do a double-take. The settings, particularly the first one in the house, are fairly ordinary. But how the game finds horror in the mundane is what truly makes it spooky. This isn’t a jump scare game, but be warned that there are some shocking moments and unnerving imagery.

Stories Untold celebrates early adventure games with its narrative text format, telling a suspenseful story through limited visuals and thrilling narrative. It’s a compelling journey, and much of the excitement comes from one’s own imagination. It’s not a long game, but the tale kept me hooked. However, Stories Untold is not for everyone. Players not used to the text format may find the gameplay tedious or unintuitive.




Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10

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