I guess you could say I’ve heard of stranger things (please don’t arrest me for this joke)
At first glance you may be tempted to compare the aesthetic of Stories Untold to a TV show like Stranger Things, and this is not a comparison Stories Untold shies away from. With marketing materials and a logo made specifically by the man who designed Stranger Things’ logo, this game is trying to tell you from the start exactly what kind of story you’ll be getting into. Originally released for the PC in 2017, it has found a good home among the Switch’s many unique horror titles and could easily go toe to toe with the best of them. However, this move to a new system has also come with its fair share of problems.
Stories Untold is a collection of four horror-themed tales each with their own setting and aesthetic. In the first story, The House Abandon, you find yourself at your desk playing a text adventure on an old PC. In the second, The Lab Conduct, you take control of a volunteer tasked with performing various experiments on a mysterious object. In the third, The Station Process, you work at an arctic radio monitoring station during a large snowstorm. As for the fourth, The Last Session, it’s better if you find out the details on that one for yourself. In all four of these games, it becomes obvious almost immediately that something more is going on than you have initially been told, and all four take advantage of a masterfully-crafted atmosphere that truly had me jumping more than a few times.
An unfortunate drawback to Stories Untold being brought to a console is the fact that the game was clearly designed with the assumption that you would have a keyboard and mouse in front of you, not a controller. Whenever you need to input something on the in-game PC, pressing L will bring up the input menu where you can select whatever you need, though these options will differ depending on what story you’re playing. Otherwise, a reticle can be moved around with the left analog stick, allowing you to interact with certain objects on your desk. While these controls certainly work fine in most situations, I could never shake the feeling that a mouse and keyboard would have felt much more immersive. In certain stories, pressing X will also allow to switch between a reference area that will usually contain information on what you should be doing and how you should be doing it, and an active area where you actually do the things you just looked up. For this reason, Stories Untold is one of those games where I’d recommend you bring a pen and paper along with you for the experience.
There are a few other flaws I found with the game, including a few of the puzzles that just seemed like they expected me to know too much or seemed to have problems actually providing me with the information I needed. In the second story, at one point I had to input a series of glyphs, but the only hint the game ever gave me was the answer flashing on screen faster than I could ever possibly process it. Another puzzle seemed to expect me to be able to read and decipher morse code with very little instruction, while one other expected me to input information from a microfiche that was just too blurry to read seemingly no matter what I did. While moments like these were low points of my playthrough, they didn’t actually go so far as to make me dislike the experience overall.
With its retro ‘80s aesthetic and multiple different settings and dangers to deal with, Stories Untold is a very well put together horror game, despite its flaws. Every story is short, clocking in at just around 30-45 minutes each, which makes this the perfect game to pop on during an evening get together where your main goal is to spook your friends. The voice acting is also a high point, as each performance felt believable and different in a way that truly made me sink into each small world as I went. It’s not a perfect game or even a perfect port, all things considered, but if you like a good atmosphere and a well-told series of stories, then you should probably go and contradict this game’s title when you have the chance.