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This clever puzzle game made me feel like Shakespeare and Stephen King - Storyteller Quick Review

This clever puzzle game made me feel like Shakespeare and Stephen King - Storyteller Quick Review

2K View2023-03-23
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PLAY IT OR SKIP IT?
Play it if you love quirky and unique indie games, as long as you don’t mind said games also being extremely short. Smarter and better writers than I have compared the art of putting together a great story to piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. Storyteller literalizes that metaphor, turning the characters, scenes, and scenarios of high drama into pieces that can be dragged and dropped and shifted around at will. This results in an entertaining exercise of brainpower and creativity, albeit one that’s over almost as quickly as it begins.
TIME PLAYED
I spent just under two hours playing Storyteller, which may not sound like much but was enough to see credits roll. The game features around fifty puzzles in total, but time to solve each one will vary greatly from player to player (and level to level). Some challenges I blasted through in seconds, but others left me stumped for ten-plus minutes. Regardless, my 108 minutes of playtime earned me 98 percent completion, with the missing 2 percent going to one bonus objective I haven’t quite figured out yet.
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WHAT’S AWESOME
• Elegant simplification of complex concepts. As a dorky English major, I’ve spent way too much time analyzing literature and thinking about theories like Joseph Campbell’s take on the hero’s adventure. Storyteller takes a lot of what I learned in my dozens of hours of lit classes and compresses it into a much more entertaining and easy-to-understand package. It’s a game, yes, but playing it will also teach you how stories are often made of similar ideas jumbled together in new ways. I could even see this game being used as a tool in writing classes, but you can play it now without racking up tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
• Multiple solutions. Stringing together a great narrative is rarely a linear process, and Storyteller recognizes that. Many of the game’s puzzles have multiple possible solutions, and for some of them, the game even has optional challenges to reward players who come up with particularly outside-the-box stories.
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Just to give one fun example: in the story titled “Isobel Commits a Crime,” I created a scenario where Isobel was jealous of the love between Edgar and Lenora. In a fit of passion, she poisoned Edgar. Boom: Isobel commits a crime; easy enough. However, then I had the bonus objective “but everyone meets their demise.” For this one, I had to add extra panels where a heartbroken Lenora drank poison to join Edgar, followed soon after by a regretful Isobel. Now that’s a proper tragedy! Piecing these dramatic tales together felt deeply satisfying to me.
• Iconic art with personality. Storyteller uses simple cartoon figures to act out its stories, but they’re put to good use and show off a lot of character. At times I enjoyed messing around with the scenes, placing characters into bizarre situations just to see how the game would illustrate their reactions, not even looking for a real answer to the puzzle in front of me.
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WHAT SUCKS
• No hints. I wouldn’t call Storyteller a particularly challenging game, but there were a few puzzles that really left me struggling for a bit. If you get stuck on one of these levels, the game doesn’t provide much of a path forward, as there’s no system for hints or even just straight-up providing the intended solution. Of course, there will probably be guides available online by the time this review goes up, so maybe this won’t be a huge concern for you!
• Game length. When Polonius told Hamlet that “brevity is the soul of wit,” the creators of Storyteller felt that. The game’s $15 asking price doesn’t seem too out of line with its short run time, but I can’t lie: It left me wanting more. Then again, that’s preferable to feeling like the premise overstayed its welcome and got stretched too far. The game’s credits also refer to the book of stories in the game as “Storyteller Tome 1,” perhaps hinting at DLC or a sequel in the future. I’d certainly welcome either or both!
💬 Will you be cracking open Storyteller and crafting some tales, or are you planning to skip this book and pick something up else off the shelf? Let me know where you’re leaning below.
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