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Stories Untold, from No Code and Devolver Digital, is a collection of primarily text-based interactive stories that can be found on Steam for £6.99. The first tale in this collection of four, The House Abandon, began life at a Game Jam and now serves as a starting point, in which each story has to be finished before unlocking the next. Stories Untold is almost entirely about the stories, which does make it slightly difficult to review in any meaningful way without giving away spoilers. Still, let’s give it a try…
Going into Stories Untold, I had absolutely no idea what to expect, aside from a text adventure. To be honest, I hadn’t played a game of this type in many years and felt that my gaming tastes had moved on. Starting up the first episode, The House Abandon, I must admit that I wasn’t expecting much.
How stupid did I feel as I found myself pulled deeper and deeper into the story, and getting more and more creeped out. Even now, that whole first episode is emblazoned into my mind as probably one of the biggest gaming surprises I had ever encountered.
Unlike the text adventures from days gone by, each of the Stories Untold tales builds atmosphere by creating a scene rather than just a simple wall of text. In The House Abandon, players are presented with a desk. On the desk is an old style computer with cassette reader. The computer is plugged into a TV. There is also a phone on the wall, some family photos, a lamp and an old alarm clock. The player, at their computer, will then start playing The House Abandon on the old computer on the screen, inputting text instructions through their own keyboard. It is a great setting that really builds the atmosphere, especially when a further layer is added part way through the game. I want to scream about all of the cool things that happen in this episode, but to do so would take away from the reader’s experience. This really is one of those games that is best played with as little prior knowledge as possible.
This first episode is short, but really leaves a mark. In contrast, the second episode, The Lab Conduct, feels tame in comparison. This time around the player is in some kind of lab and must switch their view from a computer that explains what to do, to a collection of scientific equipment with which they must interact. I have to say that I was feeling disappointed that the excellent atmosphere from the first was not replicated here. However, pushing on revealed yet more twists and again, I finished feeling quite exhilarated.
The Station Process, episode three, again changes things up by having the player interacting with a computer and some equipment. Things escalate quickly in this episode and set up the player for the final episode, which then proceeds to wrap everything up in a neat and satisfying package. There is so little that can be said without giving stuff away, but the writing is excellent across all of the episodes, and the ending is memorable.
Visually, there is not a whole lot to write home about here. The 80s sci-fi feel to the tales is perfectly well represented with the nicely detailed, yet minimal, graphics, and the atmosphere that is so important in the game works so well because of the minimal visual features. The audio work – the ambient noises and voices in the game – go along way towards building that atmosphere and are, again, incredibly well done.
The most important aspect of Stories Untold is the story, and it is this that I can’t talk about. Suffice to say, it is great. The game may be short, coming in at around three or four hours for the average player, but it really can get into the player’s head and leave a mark. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy a text adventure in this day and age, but Stories Untold is more than a text adventure and more than worthy of a purchase. Remember – Look around.