Welcome to Play This, a regular series in which we recommend games that we think is worthy of your time and attention. Games are chosen for either their outstanding design, their narrative intrigue, their originality, their social importance or a combination of all of these and more.
Given that Stories Untold is at its best and most decisive when approached without much, or any, knowledge of its offering, defining why it’s worth your time is not easy without undermining its very existence. It’s a game that thrives on mystery, both in terms of the story it’s telling and how it affects its players through the structural foundation upon which that story is delivered.
Essentially, it’s a text adventure that relies on the same sort of direct interactions as the genre required in 1980s. A scene is relayed to you in words and it’s up to you to type an action that then produces a result, or doesn’t if you fail to input a command that isn’t on the pre-programmed list. “Parser-based” text is the jargon.
Its 80s inspirations are replicated in a visual design that is loaded with far more subtext and complexity than initially meets the eye. Whilst its titles bear a striking resemblance to those employed by Stranger Things, to compare this too closely with the TV show would be lazy and would forget that the Netflix darling is indeed itself made up in large part by a string of references to nostalgic 80s entertainment.
The quality of the visuals surrounding the screens into which you type your text is such that you quickly forget that you’re playing something that does away with almost every rule regarding how modern games ‘should’ present themselves. So many games today define themselves by what is possible to create using the power of modern hardware, but Stories Untold foregoes that thinking and instead its creators concentrate on what they want to create.
Resultantly, this is a game that feels unlike the vast majority of what is available. Rewards here are defined as much in your mind as they are communicated directly through the screen and imagery is conjured up through words that inspire your imagination as opposed to through the firing of particle effects at you every second.
Perhaps best of all, the slow burn of asking you to read and react creates a form of agency that feels as though you’re working with the game rather than working to beat it.