• John Bush

Game Review #473: Stories Untold (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B

Developer: No Code Publisher: Devolver Digital Category: Adventure, Other, Puzzle Release Date: 1.16.2020 Price: $9.99


Trailer

Buy Stories Untold from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.


When something as popular as Stanger Things comes around, there are bound to be imitations. Most will be poor quality and hastily constructed with very little substance and even less of whatever made the source material so interesting in the first place. But sometimes one of the imitators manages to find a way to pay tribute to its inspiration while creating something unique and worthwhile on its own. And so it is with Stories Untold for the Nintendo Switch. Fans of Stranger Things will recognize some familiarity in the 80s setting, soundtrack, horror movie inspirations, and logo design, but that is wonderfully – gloriously - where the similarities end.



Episodes of Fear

Stories Untold is broken into four different scenarios, each of which plays out in the form of an old-school adventure game, starting with a text-based adventure scenario and then gradually adding more and more interactive aspects as the game goes along. The text-only stuff is fairly simple, but the puzzles get more challenging with each new episode. The third was the hardest; requiring the manipulation of both a radio and a microfiche machine. Kids, if you don’t know what microfiche is, count yourself lucky. The internet is way better, and it’s not easier to maneuver through microfiche on the Switch than it is in real life. I realize 80s nostalgia is all the rage right now, but some parts of it are better left forgotten. I digress; the puzzles themselves are fairly challenging and satisfying to solve.



Twisted Tales

The stories themselves are wonderfully suspenseful atmospheric horror stories. The first episode follows a protagonist playing a text-based adventure story that slowly encroaches on their reality. The second sees players participating in a secret experiment in an even more secret facility on an even more secret-er subject. The third scenario has some definite John Carpenter’s The Thing vibes, and that’s just fine with me. All microfiche, however, is still horrible in case I didn’t make that clear. And the fourth, well, it forces its protagonist to face something more horrifying than all the alien monsters and haunted PC games in the world combined. The stories are told (I know, I know, the title is a little misleading) in a unique combination of adventure game-style text exchanges and voiceover dialogue all leading to the most startling surprise of all at the conclusion of the fourth episode.



Stories Well-Realized

Stories Untold has a very 80s aesthetic; it faithfully recreates the technology of the time (the stories all take place in 1986), as well as the furniture styles. The graphics themselves are… fine, I guess? It’s not the greatest-looking game on the Switch, by any means, but the visuals get the job done. The audio design, however, enjoys far superior implementation. Much of the game’s action plays out in text, but the application of sound at just the right time to trigger a truly startling jump scare or the integration of vocal dialogue at moments carefully chosen to increase the story’s intensity and the player’s anxiety display a masterful understanding of what a meticulously-crafted soundtrack can achieve. I don’t know that I’ve ever played a game where the audio was so strikingly well-designed and applied.



Stranger Things Doesn’t Own the 80s

Despite suffering from a deep-seated hatred of microfiche, I couldn’t put Stories Untold down until I finished all four scenarios in one sitting. It took close to three hours – if I didn’t have to use microfiche to translate Morse code I could have done it faster, I think. Either way, it kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through; challenging my brain while sweeping me away on a whirlwind of suspense. This game has a little something for gamers of every stripe, but I would particularly recommend it for adventure game fans, horror aficionados, and anyone who appreciates games that take risks and experiment with narrative forms.


Score: 8.5/10


Buy Stories Untold from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.


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*A game code was provided for review purposes.

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