PC, Nintendo Switch
March 23, 2023
Telling stories isn’t always the focus in puzzle games, but Storyteller makes the story itself the puzzle. Players become a sort of narrator, having full control of all elements of the story. The goal is to tell the tale, but it’s not always as easy as you might think. Players have control of everything from the setting to the characters and the events that transpire as you build the narrative. The story takes shape through its archetypes and building blocks, with a mere title being the only hint as to the desired outcome for this particular tale.
One might be curious about how a puzzle game such as Storyteller functions. It’s quite a simple premise. Tell the story to complete the problem. Straight forward, right? Wrong! It gets tricky when the stories involve several moving pieces. While it is mainly archetypal, all those pieces interact differently and this leads to the conundrum of solving each page of the storybook. As the player progress through the levels, the stories get bigger and the characters and events more challenging to weave. Many of the later pages even have an extra challenge that can be tedious to figure out. Also, it wouldn’t be a puzzle game with those really seemingly hard levels that end up being super simple.
The game’s art style feels really on brand, making Storyteller play like a magical storybook that has come to life. This style is carried into the entire game with animations between menus featuring touches like page-turning. It creates a kind of mythos that builds into the game loop in such a thoughtful way. It continues with the use of a bookmark tab to mark the settings, level select, and even the game-ending “ceremony”. I adore this attention to detail and it makes the moments between the puzzles feel a part of the experience.
“I was able to see the items react as I moved them around on the screen which played up that hands-on element.”
The gameplay is quite intuitive and feels built for the Nintendo Switch with extensive button mapping when the touchscreen isn’t being used. It was actually refreshing to play a puzzle game on the Switch that isn’t afraid to use the touchscreen on the console or the controllers as opposed to focusing on one style. I really appreciated this and found it added to the interactivity of the “book” in Storyteller. I was able to see the items react as I moved them around on the screen which played up that hands-on element. Because of this, I was quite drawn to touch controls as it felt quite natural to have that level of control over all the pieces on each page. It even made it more fun to try out different solutions or even just mess about and see how the characters would react as I shuffled them about on the screen.
The game’s puzzles are quite straightforward but begin to spike in difficulty as more are completed. New story mechanics are introduced to the puzzle format as you progress through the chapters, finding the complexity also grows. There was never a point during my playthrough that I found myself bored of the game concept. Each new story puzzle was a new page, figuratively and literally. That natural increase in difficulty worked in the game’s favour and left me quite satisfied with its progression. Solving each page’s conundrum was a reward that feels earned, especially when that challenge wasn’t as straightforward as first thought.
I think Storyteller would’ve definitely benefited from a hint system. When one was stuck on a puzzle, the process to solve it became a combination of trial and error… or looking up the answer online. This usually leads to the realisation that the answer was right there in front of me the whole time through no fault of the game. I think a hint system could be a good way for the game to guide the player when certain levels do get tricky or seem impossible. I feel that should be fairly standard in a game like Storyteller that is asking the player to find the specific storyline for the page.
Storyteller is quite a modest experience that could be played in one sitting if you don’t find yourself stuck on one of the page’s puzzles. Players are still able to move chapters and play levels out of order. That moderation I think adds to the appeal of Storyteller and makes it a savoured and enjoyable experience. While I did find myself replaying some levels, the replayability isn’t quite so great when you realise how specific some of the page answers are.
In the game’s final chapter, players have control of a whopping 8 panels after starting out with a mere 3 and the challenge to wrangle more complex plots. The logic engine in the game is quite unilateral which while straightforward, also minimises the diversity in solutions available to the player. I’m the first to admit that I’d try everything even on a whim just to see how the characters react when the rules aren’t obeyed. Honestly, in the bigger levels, things felt even more rigid and that ability to find other solutions wasn’t that viable past the established individual page challenges. I feel this works against the game and what it’s selling itself as. It’s called Storyteller, and yet the stories you tell are basically puzzles waiting for their specific solution.
Storyteller is a fun puzzle game that means well but definitely has room to grow into its own. Its art style feels tactile and functions well with touchscreen and controller play. As a puzzle game, it fits the brief as a conceptual logic game that begs the player to take over the storytelling and find the solution. Most of the puzzles require no outside aid but the occasional page might stump you for a good while. The game knows the player wants total control of the narratives and yet the logic becomes its biggest drawback when replayability is considered.
- Drawn art style feels tactile and suits the magical storybook vibe of the game
- The game feels like it is just the right length
- Touchscreen and controllers feel optimised to the Switch
- Replayability is quite rigid and doesnt encourage other solutions often
- No hint system
Storyteller makes the player a would-be narrator, with a focus on finding the correct story under the guise of narrative independence. It’s a polished experience that’s very interactive and easy to pick up. The levels pad the game’s length out nicely to create an experience that can be played in a single sitting if you don’t get stuck. It’s just a shame the replayability suffers when the player realises there isn’t room for agency in a prewritten story.