Storyteller appeared on my radar back in the summer of 2021 thanks to its spot in Annapurna Interactive’s showcase during Summer Game Fest. The concept intrigued me – an interactive puzzle game where you’re tasked with weaving a tale based on a one-line prompt and given assets (settings and characters) while juggling a panel limit (typically between three and six panels). Since that moment in the spotlight, I’ve awaited its launch and whenever it would pop up in video game presentations for another glimpse.
Now, the wait is finally over. Storyteller is ready for its release on Nintendo Switch and PC this week and for players to crack open the digital tome’s spine to see what stories can be pieced together.
LOVE, HEARTBREAK, AND AFTERLIFE
With a flip of a page, a new story begins. You’re eased into Storyteller’s puzzle mechanics with its Chapter 1 section acting as the game’s tutorial. Here, you’re limited to two locations and characters, yet aided with some notes scribbled on the pages or outlines of where the characters should be placed. These puzzles are (mostly) straightforward, but it’s a good starting point to learn the controls, that solved puzzles will earn you a shiny crown, and the possible outcomes of a character’s role. Killed off a character? No problem! They’re a ghost now! Use that transformation wisely.
CHAPTERS 2 THROUGH “THE END”
From there, the remaining chapters are focused on a particular theme – Broken Hearts, Apparitions, Beauty, The Manor, etc. Each chapter will have four puzzles inspired by the theme – everything from riffing off of notable stories/plays (Oedipus Rex and Hamlet, for instance) to elements of what it takes to solve a murder (or bungle it) and more. Prompts will vary with the number of frames (3, 4, 6, or 8) and sometimes you won’t need to use all of them to spin a tale. The same goes for locations and the cast of characters. There are some puzzles where an extra requirement or alternative take on the prompt is added on. After all, there are many ways to tell a story. This is a delightfully fun part due to how Storyteller looks.
Appearance-wise, it’s an interactive comic strip set inside a gilded bounded book – complete with etchings for chapter pages as if you were flipping through an old novel. When solving a puzzle, locations and characters can be swapped with and around with ease. Characters are animated when placed and will react to whatever is going on in the moment (and will still “move” thanks to an animated texture layer). Their current actions or emotions are influenced by previous panels as well as identifying “this is who I am” character elements. As you place characters in a scene, they’ll react in a variety of ways – including thought bubbles that can help you see what’s needed for your current story build (i.e.: only a character wearing the crown can sit on a throne). Swap a character in a spot where it doesn’t make sense and it’ll show! Suddenly characters will have question mark thought bubbles or are shrugging.
ASIDE – TOUCH CONTROLS
In my initial playthrough, I used a Nintendo Pro Controller while the Nintendo Switch was docked. For a handheld test, I tried out the touch controls. Overall, they’re extremely satisfying. Taps and drags are fluid and very quick. Before I knew it, my handheld test almost became a second playthrough. Pages can be turned with a tap, and characters and locations can be dragged and dropped with ease. It’s fun to hear all the little sound effects when tapping characters and the locations too. If you tend to fiddle with anything, it’s great. I highly recommend if you’re able to, playing Storyteller this way.
Like reaching the end of any good book, sometimes you’re left wanting more (especially if there’s a cliffhanger involved). In the case of Storyteller, I collected all 51 crowns and unlocked the credits in 2 ½ hours. (This playtime was scattered across three play sessions over two days, for those curious.) So depending on how puzzle savvy you are, you might find Storyteller a bit too short. There is, of course, nothing stopping you from replaying the adventure, tinkering around with different outcomes, and even swapping playstyles (i.e.: giving touch controls a go). I’m still hoping that there are some secret levels hidden away I have yet to discover, but so far I haven’t stumbled upon anything.
PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW…
Ultimately, Storyteller succeeds as a charming and wonderfully quirky narrative puzzle game – one that is too good to put down. The concept, its rules, the art and music direction, and the controls (especially touch) are fantastic. If the only negative is that it’s too short for my taste (and possibly lacking a free-for-all sandbox mode, but that’s a coding project for a well-staffed studio, not an indie developer), then that’s a ding worth taking. To be so good and polished that you wish it wasn’t over! How many games, really, get that note?
If you enjoy puzzle games and have enough in your video game purchasing budget, definitely pick up Storyteller. I hope that you’ll be enthralled with it as much as I’ve been and that this is only the beginning for Storyteller. Here’s to another tome, of stories to be crafted and tinkered with.
Storyteller is available for Nintendo Switch as a digital download title (via the Nintendo eShop) for $14.99. It is also available for PC via Steam.
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System: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: March 23rd, 2023
Categories: Puzzle, Adventure
ESRB Rating: T for Teen (Blood, Violence, Use of Alcohol, Sexual Themes)
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Daniel Benmergui