Title: Stories Untold
Developer: No Code
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Release date: Out now
tl;dr: Stranger Things-esque spook meets text and point-and-click adventuring
Price: $9.99 / £6.99
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
When you think of Scottish games development, what are the first games that come to mind? You get one point if you thought of Grand Theft Auto and a bonus five points if you also thought of Minecraft (or rather, its various console and mobile ports). It’s not hard to imagine an indie scene brewing nicely and gently alongside the larger studios. One such team is No Code, a Glasgow-based team that caught the ever-watchful eye of hotshot publisher Devolver Digital and together have released Stories Untold.
Devolver’s Chief Financial Officer has the fun habit of commenting on games they publish. This time round, it makes for an amusingly true alignment to my own opinions!
“Stories Untold is so unbelievably intense that at one point I legitimately peed my absurdely expensive pants,” noted Devolver Digital CFO Fork Parker. “It’s surprisingly hard to get urine out of leather.”
This game can best be compared to those selection boxes you get at Christmas, except each sweet is a mysteriously dramatic powerbomb laced with retro design cues and the occasional dash of horror for added flavour.
Four short stories make up this selection box, each of which will take up roughly forty-five to sixty minutes of your time. Using mostly text entries for an in-game monitor or manipulating equipment in front of you, a storytelling experience of quite some note plays out.
I’d love to go into some finer details of the stories told in each of the four sections, but the story here is very much 90% of the experience, and the developers have been rather specific in requesting that people do not share spoilers when discussing the game. In the spirit of this, I shall attempt to summarise each session in a few choice words:
- The House Abandon – A spooky text adventure
- The Lab Conduct – A spooky lab experiment
- The Station Process – A spooky radio transmission
- The Last Session – A spooky session
Spooky is certainly the common theme that you’ll quickly appreciate, but it’s not the type of spooky that is commonly explored in games. We all know well the good ol’ jump-scare and in some cases, it presents itself, sadly, a bit too obviously. Think about Five Nights at Freddy’s and you’ll know what I mean. Even some of the more established names in the horror scene lean on this type of horror more often than should be necessary.
Here in Stories Untold, the horror is more of an atmospheric variant, a style that I absolutely loved in Alien Isolation. Throughout the game, I was accompanied with a never-departing vibe that something just wasn’t quite right with the scene and something terrible was around the corner. Large chunks may seem relatively acceptable given the environment, but that feeling doesn’t go away and in some cases, it gets worse over time.
It’s not an easy type of horror to implement in a game, yet No Code seem to have really hit the nail on the head. There were one or two hiccups that interrupted the flow, mainly through guesswork of accepted key commands, but I would argue that it mostly paused the flow in a way that puts you at the point of no return. On many an occasion, I was at a point where I couldn’t turn back. All I could do was progress forward in a direction I definitely did not want to.
The anticipation of what’s to come was, well… spooky.
It may not be one of the longest games that you’ll play, but I can assure you that if you enjoy a wee bit of puzzle solving, combined with a small dash of text adventures all washed down with atmospheric horror, then Stories Untold is definitely a game for you.
- Quality atmospheric horror experience
- Given its limited space, the 3D artwork is superb
- Storytelling is on point
- I’d love to have seen more stories!
- Some specific requirements in the text fields briefly interrupted the flow
Stories Untold is an atmospheric horror. Whilst its explicit content is limited only to a few choice curse words, the atmosphere is certainly not child-friendly. I’d say that if a child was under 15 years of age, it might not be worth a look at yet.
Disclaimer: This review is based on code provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.