You are sitting in front of a desk. Darkness surrounds you. You see a desk lamp and a computer, your only light sources in the room. Screen turns on, you recognize the game from your childhood: "The House Abandon". You look around, while the computer awaits for your input. But, something is different. Both the room and the game start to change over time, turning your past memories into a nightmare. You relive each step in a very different way. The house, the car, the family pictures, your dad's note. You feel challenged, isolated, frightened and threatened by this presence in the living room. You hear steps, closer, closer. You hear the door handle moving. The game is not only interacting with your surroundings. It's messing with your head.
This is how Stories Untold begins, a smart and intriguing episodic tale that involves different topics, settings and unique mechanics for each episode. After the creation of "The House Abandon" during Ludum Dare #36, the studio took advantage of their idea, leading to a whole story that uses this project as a starting point.
The game was developed by No Code, a team formed by AAA veterans that worked in many known titles, such as Alien: Isolation, and published by Devolver Digital. Introduced itself as an experimental text adventure, Stories Untold presents four stories that share a common mystery, but they are really unique on their own. First, the main mechanics are entirely attached to the inputs we use to keep the story going, and the audio design. We advise you to use your best headset while playing it (don't forget to turn off the light, too!) due to its importance in building the atmosphere for each level.
In a very Stranger Things way, we encountered ourselves solving puzzles and looking for clues in order to advance in the story. They seem very simple and pretty much straightforward at first, especially with "The House Abandon". However, things tend to get a little more complicated as we are forced to complete a series of experiments in the second episode, only for the purpose of reanimating a heart. Additionally to the mechanics present in the former episode, this second instance has many objects and machinery to interact with.
Episode three feels almost like a complete different game. Abandoning the tests and talking to a computer, we are now working in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Two other stations send us different coordinates that we have to decode using a radio, a computer and a screen that contains different files. The dynamic and idea behind it seems interesting at first, but then it turns into a really complicated puzzle that keeps evolving over time. I felt it was a little too much from time to time, and I wished that I could go back to a more traditional pace. Luckily, the second half of the episode is really unique, and presents one of the best moments of the entire game.
I won't get into many details regarding the fourth and final episode, but it's probably the most interesting one, as it presents a different setting once more, while also slowly wrapping up the events of its predecessors and conclude the story.
And that is one of the major highlights of Stories Untold, the way the developers thought the design of the game. The story must have less than ten scenarios, but it's clever enough to change their shapes and atmosphere in order to create a whole new situation each time. All tales are well written, and the plot had me on the edge of my seat until the last minute. Although it had a few moments in which the most common inputs weren't always the right ones, it proved to be a satisfactory experience that should be played by both fans and newcomers of the genre due to how unique it is. Just keep in mind that there is a lot more than meets the eye, and we advise to avoid spoilers at all cost to fully experience the story.
Stories Untold is available on PC via Steam for the price of $9.99 USD. You can know more about both the game and the studio on the official website, and don't forget to follow No Code and Devolver Digital accounts on Twitter.
Final Score: 8/10