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Stories Untold Review

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Fast Facts

Title: Stories Untold
Developer: No Code
Publisher: Devolver Digital
Website: https://devolverdigital.com/games/stories-untold
Genre: Puzzle, Adventure, Horror
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 16/1/2020
Price: £8.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.

Picture yourself sitting in your childhood home. It’s late at night, and you’re playing a text adventure game on an old PC from your youth. Sounds pretty nostalgic and relaxing right? This is the situation in episode 1 of Stories Untold, and it is far from calming.

A concoction of genres

If you couldn’t tell from the aesthetic of the game, it is made clear very quickly that this is a tense, horror game. However, the more you play, the more you realise it explores other genres such as sci-fi and mystery. This makes for an overall story that leaves you guessing while also keeping you on your toes.

There are four episodes in total, and though there is an overarching plot, they have their own setting and mechanics. This is a spoiler free zone so I can’t say too much without giving it away! However, each episode you will be in a different environment, learning a new skill.

The controls were simple and easy to get the hang of, especially as they’d always be on screen to remind you. The entire game is played in first person, which really immerses you and adds to the tension. I didn’t quite like the way you had to hold down L1 to lean in while looking around with the joystick, because you had to keep it steady and as soon as you released it you’d fling back to the original view. This made it a little more difficult to read things on the computers and machines for example.

It was unique how you’d have to look at the computer on the Switch screen as if you were really there, but I felt often the writing was quite small especially in handheld mode. Pairing this with the leaning in technique, it drew me away from the immersion a little.

The puzzles were a great challenge though; the text adventures had a variety of options so you could really get a picture of the situation, while the radio transmissions had you multitasking from reading up on morse code to tuning in to frequencies. There were a couple of instances where I was confused on what I had to do, so I think there could be some hints when you’re stuck. But once it clicked, you could use what you’d learned with ease.

Left in the dark

As well as being quite literally in the dark at times, I did spend the majority of my time while playing this game thinking ‘what is going on?!’. Purposefully, particularly with the changing of settings and genres, it’s hard to get your head around what exactly the story is. It’s not until the final episode that things start to really tie together, though if I’m being honest, I was still a bit confused!

Personally, this kind of mind-boggling isn’t to my tastes, but I can really appreciate how well it was written and see why it has received the critical acclaim that it has. It’s unlike anything else I’ve played, and kept me on edge. I was curious to discover the meaning behind everything, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t jump when my Switch would vibrate violently out of nowhere!

Playing off the episode format, it really did feel like a TV show or film where you were playing the main character. I’m impressed with the game’s ability to convey a whole story within such a short space of time.

80s vibes

The entire game, from its menu art to its visuals to its music, screamed 80s. The retro feel will be comforting for people who grew up in that time, perhaps lulling them into a false sense of security, while others will find themselves acclimatising to that era. The mix of this with sci-fi elements helps to remind you that this is a world quite different from our own.

Devolver Digital have said on their website that the soundtrack was inspired by 80s horror movies, which works extremely effectively. It’s creepy and tense, but also knows how to use silence to its advantage as well. Even small things such as the crackles of voices over the radio made you feel uneasy.

The game looks great and runs well, keeping you immersed in the role of the protagonist. A warning that there are a lot of of flashing lights, and at times I felt it was too much even as someone who doesn’t suffer from photo sensitivity. One puzzle took me a while to complete because I couldn’t bear looking at the flashing for too long. But I can see why they are used to add to the confusion and sense of danger.

What’s your story?

The main journey has you wondering who you’re playing as; how did you get into these situations and where are you? The whole game is pretty much one big question mark until things start to be revealed slowly. For me, it isn’t my favourite genre or way of story telling. But I can see people who are really enjoying this game, and I can appreciate how well made it is.

Don’t expect gore and jump scares as this is a psychological horror, using confusion and a tense mystery to play with your mind. A strong story, an 80s aesthetic reiterated by its visuals and soundtrack, and unique mechanics, this is definitely one to give a go.

Rapid Reviews Rating

You can buy this game from the Nintendo eShop at the following link: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Stories-Untold-1708246.html#Overview

You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.

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