Stories Untold came to be on my ‘want to play’ list as I heard about it being a narrative driven episodic game that draws on retro style gameplay. All of which which sits right in my wheelhouse. From then onwards, I avoided all spoilers and grabbed it in a sale on the Switch eshop, settling down to play one cold dark evening. 30 minutes later I had to switch it off, as I discovered it is also a very creepy and unsettling game, and I need to be in the right mood to fave jump scares. Now that I knew what I was in for, I started the game again when I was in a better frame of mind and really enjoyed what felt like a pretty unique experience.
Created by developer No Code and published by Devolver Digital, this is a short game consisting of 4 episodes, each seeming at first to be unconnected but the more you play, the more you start to see the threads that hold them all together. Each episode has a different gameplay style, and to talk about them all would be to spoil the narrative and the surprise. The game is about discovery and experimentation, and seeing themes repeat themselves while trying to figure out exactly what story is being told. In my opinion it is also best to play the episodes in different sessions, and take your time with them so get to see the full picture that is developing.
The first episode takes the form of a 80’s style text adventure, where you see the computer and TV on your screen, complete with ZX Spectrum style loading screens and chunky key pressing sound effects. It becomes apparent very quickly that the game and the environment are linked together as the creepy tone ramps up.
The next two episodes have wildly different settings and mechanics, and it’s not always obvious exactly what you need to need to do, but it’s worth taking the time to look at all the materials you are given access to as they provide all the clues you need for the puzzles and also give more tantalising pointers to the story as a whole. The fourth episode pulls everything together and gives an explanation for what you have been experiencing. It neatly ties up the story and the premise of the earlier episodes but does also dive into some disturbing subjects and may hit close to home for some people. It’s not a happy ending, but it does provide closure for the story as a whole.
Devolver Digital seem to have a knack for finding developers that have a unique idea, and letting them bring that idea to a wider audience. I’ll certainly be intrigued to see what No Code come up with next as Stories Untold stuck with me for a lot longer than the four evenings I spent playing it’s diverse tales.