When I first came across Stories Untold, I was intrigued by its description as “a narrative-driven experimental adventure game” that combines psychological horror, mystery and sci-fi.
While horror isn’t my usual cup of tea, I’ve always wanted to try playing a horror game for that adrenaline rush, so I decided to play the game on Nintendo Switch.
A blend of point-and-click and text adventure, the game is made up of four chapters.
It’s a throwback to the ’80s, evident in its VHS aesthetics and synthwave music, and is a relatively short game that took me about three hours to beat.
The first chapter takes place in the player’s bedroom where you play a text adventure game on your computer.
You read the instructions on the computer screen and type in your commands to progress into the story.
Your only interaction is with the computer, and interestingly enough, the entire chapter takes place in the player’s bedroom. This means the scenery remains the same throughout the chapter. While this may sound off-putting, the end result is far from that.
Because of the static scenery, the player becomes more perceptive to every little seemingly harmless sound – especially after long stretches of silence with very little background noise.
The player has to rely on their imagination to fill in the blanks, and it’s this unsettling yet immersive aspect that hooked me in. If you want to fully immerse yourself, I’d recommend using headphones.
As for the gameplay, Stories Untold is partly a text-based game, so this means you have to be absolutely literal when you’re inputting commands. Say you’re in a car and you want to go into your house. First you need to “open car door”, then “go house” and “open front door”. You can’t just “go house” straightaway. This took me some time to get used to, but I still enjoyed the first chapter as a whole.
Moving on to the next chapter, the player is in a research lab and your task is to conduct experiments on what appears to be a heart.
The player has no choice but to follow the orders from a pair of scientists. Each experiment becomes more unsettling than the previous, and compared to the first chapter that mainly relies on your imagination, the second certainly doesn’t shy away from letting you see everything in first person view.
In terms of gameplay, there was this one puzzle that got me stumped. Not because I didn’t know what to do, but because I didn’t know how to do it without burning my eyes and giving myself a headache.
The puzzle required me to look at a sequence of flashing images, and no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t keep my eyes on the screen long enough to crack the puzzle.
I had to look up the solution and I found other people who had the same problem with the flashing images. Not a pleasant experience, but a good chapter overall.
The third chapter has a bit of a sci-fi feel to it. The player is alone in a cabin in the middle of a snowstorm, where you have to process radio transmissions and input codes on your computer.
To input codes, you first need to look up the codes in a machine called a microfilm reader.
This should’ve been an easy task but I spent my time squinting at my Switch screen, zooming in and trying to read the text on the microfilm reader.
I couldn’t read a single thing – it was all blurry.
After fiddling with the controls, I finally figured out how to focus in and out with the D-pad so I could read the text.
This chapter felt slightly tedious at times, after scrolling through the reader, rotating the pages, and focussing in and out more times than I would’ve liked.
The tedium aside, the story and atmosphere is brilliant, and by the time I ended chapter three, my head was swirling with theories.
It’s hard to talk about chapter four without giving away any spoilers, so I won’t delve too deep into the details. The final chapter retains its horror aspect to a degree, but the ending, and the journey towards it, packs quite an emotional punch.
Some may call the ending cliché but I personally find it satisfying. It’s a reminder that each of our actions has a consequence – some more dire than the others.
If you’re looking for a short game and don’t mind having a good scare, then I’d recommend playing Stories Untold. The gameplay mechanics are a bit wonky at times, but overall, it’s an enjoyable game with a unique setting.