Stories Untold Review
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Available on: Steam
Genre: Atmospheric Horror
Publisher: Devolver Digital
The House Abandon plays like any other text adventure. Though with a huge difference that might not look that substantial in the beginning. Instead of the screen equating your screen, you are instead seated like you are probably right now, at a desk. The computer actually containing the text adventure off to the left as your lamp shines on your keyboard and the lone photo frame directly in front of you. As you continue on through the seemingly innocent adventure of going back to your home that you moved away from, it quickly turns dark. The house you just went through is a twisted version of itself. And suddenly the text adventure isn’t just a game on the old computer. This might not even be located in an ordinary house as small changes continue to happen right in front of you as the text adventure continues.
The first story is a text adventure, so the other three must be as well right? Nope! The second story, The Lab Conduct, strays away and puts you in the shoes of someone performing experiments on an artifact. With a mysterious voice guiding you to what you need to continue as instructions come into a computer to the left of you. The computer also holding information to help you know which equipment is where and the information about specific equipment. Not having much choice to deviate from the guy that is the owner of the voice as you try to set the needed equipment correctly and turn off unnecessary equipment. The tension ramping up with each experiment.
I might have lied a little. After conducting multiple experiments, you do get back into a text adventure for a short time. Though, do keep in mind that before this, you are made to look into a bright, flashing light to advance multiple times. So if you are susceptible to this, you really should turn away from the game. You do get more story beats that are not entirely clear till you know the full extent of the story.
The next story is The Station Process. Once again, straying away from the previous story’s gameplay to show different scenery and focusing more on codes. Stuck in a station placed in a frozen tundra with the only people that are conversing with you are not in the same building anymore. Everyone is isolated in their own station far away enough that going out is risking everything as everyone tries to stay in contact with each other through a radio. Trying to stay alive to not let the other be alone. Though, we can’t all have what we want. You have an important role, you receive transmissions and in turn, you send them back. First required to get a passcode, which is attainable by going to the required radio frequency before continuing to send it back.
There is one small hurdle that may hinder you, the microfilm. The microfilm contains the required codes needed to input based on the code word. Little does the game let you to believe, you can zoom into, rotate, and focus so the microfilm can become easier to read. If the code word is “Chevron” after searching for the page titled with it, the lines of code you need to enter is placed here. There might also be values set that needs to be replaced with the corresponding place within the passcode, as it might ask for the second number to replace ‘a’. The difficulty ramps up at a good rate, passcodes soon needing a key to decipher and more values coming in. The situation ramping up as we can finally walk away and explore what lies outside. And as you can tell, this chapter holds hints for the overall story, and with the other chapters under your belt, you can easily make some theories on what the next chapter will reveal.
Lastly, the fourth and last story is The Last Session. Where everything comes together and all of the hints from the previous stories are weaved together. The truth finally comes out. Everything coming to a full circle as the game comes to a close. The ending will have a chance of disappointing you. With three stories building it up, it is only normal to think that something big is going to be revealed. And with the overall moral being really overplayed so much that there is a guarantee people will whine in frustration in a room. Though, instead, it does show a different type of horror than it leads you to believe. The type we all fear deep down. I can’t spoil the ending for you, but it can definitely give you mixed feelings on it with how cliché it is.
This would be far from being terrifying if the sound design was horrible. Luckily, this is not the case as the sound design is great. The clank of the keyboard, the whirr of a machine, and a radio tuning in brings up the tension in their respective stories. Bringing life to the world that is subtle, but combined with the story brings fear. Fear of what’s to come or the actions you are forced to complete. On this note, the voice work is great as well. Perfectly fitting into the grim world we are given. These voices easy to latch onto, but are they more than we seem? Can we trust them?
Stories Untold holds a mix of styles that mess with how the player needs to play. Going from a simple text adventure, to operating machinery, and lastly to entering codes and deciphering passcodes. Giving just enough information that you can get through all parts of the game with few hurdles while also giving out hints that only make sense when you go back and look. Even with the ending possibly being the one thing that can put a sour taste to the rest, everything before is great. Not relying on jumpscares but on the atmosphere as the goosebumps just keeps on coming.