Stories Untold: The House Abandon [Ep1]

Stories Untold is a collection of four stories that combine the classic text-adventure and point & click games. The House Abandon is the first episode/story in the collection, and is available as a demo on the Steam Store to give you a teaser. The game was developed by No Code, an ex-AAA development team based in Glasgow headed by co-founders: Jon McKellan (Alien: Isolation) and Omar Khan.

Each of the four stories will be reviewed individually since it is easiest to break down the post.Before I get into the nitty-gritty if you will, let me get side-tracked really quick. I have to say I really enjoyed the opening sequence for Stories Untold. I felt like I was watching a movie, due to the movie-esque resolution the game was set up in.

I have to say text-based games are nothing new, however playing it as a game within a game is definitely something new for me. Admittedly I did find amusement in that idea as well. Of course, that amusement was short-lived when the game began revealing its creep factor. The few scares it does throw at you definitely got me.

20170329235449_1As I mentioned earlier Stories: Untold is a text-based game, you need to type actions to drive the game forward (e.g. ‘open car door’). Typing these actions can be a ‘hit-or-miss’ as you figure the exact wording needed to progress further into the game. I got stuck in two parts since I was not sure what I needed to do/type. I had to look up a walk-through to figure out what I needed to type in, especially the first time I got stuck. Hearing a phone blaring loudly non-stop really grates on the ears and brain. Why the most obvious solution did not occur to me, I have no idea. I blame on being disorientated by the loud noise.

House Abandon overall is a very short game, assuming players do not get stuck, you can knock it down in about 20 minutes approximately. I see the playing time only increasing if you missed something while achievement hunting. If you do miss something, you have to replay the entire episode from the beginning as there is no save function, nor is there an option to skip the opening movie.

Stories Untold is a psychological horror, and does it well. If House Abandon is any indication on how the other episodes will be, I am excited to play them soon. Not to mention the sound design is phenomenal. The soundtrack is kept to the minimal and low. Any other sounds amplify what players are meant to experience. As I have stated numerous times, sound design is extremely important in the horror genre. Stories Untold nails it, making a text-based game give me an overwhelming sense of dread and suspecting a jump-scare at any moment.

20170330000805_1The changes you see in House Abandon is extremely well done. It is not ‘loud’ to the point it is screaming in your face. Most of it is conveying in the description you read, however the little touches that you can see adds to that ever-increasing sense of dread. While playing, I did not actually see the changes at first. I was vaguely aware something was off with the whole scene but was focused on the obvious. When I finally did notice what had changed, needless to say it unnerved me even further.

At the conclusion of House Abandon, I was left wanting more and jumped into the second episode the following evening. Stories Untold: House Abandon has its moments of catching the player unaware and does so effectively. Fantastic creation of mood using the text descriptions, subtle changes of the setting and sound design. The story left me with some questions which makes me wonder if they will be addressed in later episodes, since I am under the impression currently that all the episodes are linked together somehow. Despite the scares that got me, overall I had a positive experience and want to find how everything links together. Text-based game with psychological horror genre leanings and succeeding in it gets a thumbs up in my book.

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