Ever felt like you have lost control of your own consciousness like someone is steering you in a direction like a puppet on some strings? Just me, ok. Sometimes life feels like we are in the car, but not necessarily steering the wheel, that is what ‘Stories Untold’, the debut title developed by No Code and Devolver Digital, feels like.
With four episodic tales, that at first feel unrelated, this spooky point and click adventure game now available on the Xbox One, is a meta marvel I couldn’t put down. Played through the eyes of the mysterious protagonist, you are a game within a game. Without giving away too much, our character plays through four episodes featuring tales about an abandoned house, a sinister space entity, and the horrors of an isolated frosty radio station, all the while culminating with delving into our own psyche and that of our character. It really makes you evaluate how far you are willing to go into the dark mentally?
The gameplay is very basic but satisfying in the best kind of way. You are required to solve a series of problems in each episode via text commands, with integrated guidelines to help you, just in case. Using prompts, you can use, read, go to, look, etc, which your character will bang into an in-game computer to progress the tale, much like the game ‘Forbidden Quest’. As I said, it is very metaphysical.
Choices made will often require you to look around your small space, lean in, or utilize objects in the small game environment too, adding another layer of complexity to what normally is such a straightforward genre. My only gripe with this is at times you need to wait for an action before you can input the next as if it is loading. A slight impatience of my own but in some sequences, it can slow down the flow.
Now, this is a creepy tale, with many bizarre twists and turns. My people know I don’t do horror, but in this title, everything is so subtle and mildly macabre, I fell in love instantly. Talking from honesty here, alone in the dark with my headset on tight around my head, I did jump quite a bit and often had shivers run down my spine during the more tense moments. While some of the heart-thumping moments are jump scares (the lowest form of horror), these are mainly environmental. I loved that Stories Untold employ psychological fear that reality can provide too, really bring those emotional ties in connections to the story unfolding.
Graphically, there isn’t much to look at in each environment, but what is there is teaming with detail and charisma, setting the mood and the scene gorgeously in a vintage hue. Everything is a retro throwback, from the computer to the tapes, with an 80’s motif running thick and fast through the whole story, even to the tracks supporting the atmosphere. The music is brilliant with a very ‘The Midnight’ feel, I could have sat in the menu for ages just listening.
Stories Untold makes the transition from the Nintendo Switch to Xbox One near-seamless which is a genuine credit to the developers No Code. Controlling the narrative is done very simply with the use of a few buttons as possible as not to detract from the story unfolding before you. To me this was the biggest part of this release on Xbox One; being able to stay with the story and feel it instead of having to focus on anything else is just such a big drawcard.
As outlined previously the in-game visuals and sounds are on point too, which again is a credit to No Code with the port over to Xbox One from the Nintendo Switch and PC. Stories Untold is a little gem that’s now available on Xbox One and PlayStation right now.
Overall, Stories Untold is a brilliant ride of heart-pounding moments and intriguing storytelling. With simple controls but complex gameplay, this is one of the best narrative-driven games I have played in a long time. Highly recommended for anyone that likes thrills but also the mellow gameplay of this genre, this is one game I binged from start to finish.
- The meta-ness of it all, totally messes with the mind in a good way; very unique
- Separate intriguing stories that culminate
- Simple gameplay with minimal controls
- Integrated tutorial
- Subtle horror-esque themes and psychological scares
- Rad 80’s style and music
- Waiting to input a command, I’m impatient. Sue me