When wielded properly, words can be terrifying. With nothing but the text on a screen or on a page, the author can tap into your imagination, elicit a feeling of fear in you, engage your fight or flight response, get your heart pumping. Stories Untold begins as a text adventure, but soon evolves into something much greater.
Split into four different chapters, each has a very different take on things. The first episode, The House Abandon, relies purely on being a text adventure. Unlike some text adventure classics, you don’t have to type out prompts, Stories Untold has pre-filled prompts so you just have to select the rights one to make progress. The House Abandon starts quite upbeat, but things quickly take on a menacing tone. No Code uses sound very well to set the environment with creaking doors, and the visuals of flickering lights. It’s a very simple setting, yet playing with Switch in hand and headphones, it really draws you in.
The Lab Conduct, the second episode, changes the setting completely. Now you’re in a lab and instead of just entering prompts for the text adventure, you’re additionally tasked with solving puzzles to carry out experiments on a heart. You have to switch between screens where one shows instructions while the other hosts equipment you need to interact with including a monitor, X-ray machine, and a drill. The puzzles themselves are pretty accessible but its what they lead to that really gets to you.
The third episode shifts the setting once more, now placing you’re in a remote research station stuck in a blizzard – The Thing, anyone? Again the puzzles have changed, though you do still have the two things to look at. This time you need to leaf through a manual on one side while on the other you get transmissions of codes to put in. Some are quite straightforward with putting in the right numbers, while in others you need to decipher Morse code and the phonetic alphabet. Once you figure out the codes you then need to refer to the manual to decipher instructions that slowly reveal what’s going on, though you never have the full picture.
What works particularly well through all three of these episodes it that you don’t get the full picture and your imagination is left to fill in the blanks. That is until the fourth and final episode, which ties it all together in an overarching storyline.
On one hand, it is done rather well with callbacks to the previous episodes that make you realise what kind of events really transpired. On the other hand, you lose a lot of the mystery from conjuring up scenarios in my mind. Still, the story does generally mesh well together.
The puzzles throughout are generally decent, though there are some that can be a bit of a miss. A solution that flashed at you over and over in the second episode was rather off-putting, while a Morse code puzzle feels a bit inaccessible as the beeps aren’t explained, despite the manual giving clues to it. Some of the other puzzles are great though, especially as tools to move the story forward.