The game featured in this Storyteller review is a puzzle game. It gives players a prompt and requires them to build a storyboard until the desired solution has been reached. It starts you with a simple tutorial before the puzzles gradually get more complex and require more time to think about, applying previous knowledge and experimenting to learn what new mechanics there are.
Released by the same publishers as Stray, Annapurna Interactive, and claiming to have been 15 years in development Hell, Storyteller was finally published on March 23, 2023, for the Nintendo Switch and PC.
To start, let’s make it clear that Storyteller was not actually in development for 15 years. Its prototype certainly existed for that long, but the indie game, as it stands today, was not worked on for 15 years. Just lower your expectations now, lest you face disappointment later.
Storyteller held such promise when it was promoted, and the previews made it seem delightful, and yet, most people, myself included, find its content lacking. But the game isn’t all bad; there are some charming aspects. To clarify, though, I do not regret buying Storyteller, even if some aspects disappointed me.
A Moving Picturebook
Storyteller opens with an intricate book with the game’s name emblazoned across the top, reminiscent of the hefty tomes at the start of various old Disney Movies. However, Storyteller’s tome doesn’t seem nearly as bedazzled or gilded – a betrayal to the contents inside.
Before you begin each puzzle, you’ll notice an illustration accompanying every storybook chapter. Although a bit more detailed than the gameplay drawings, each gives you a preview of each puzzle’s theme, a fun insight into what’s to come.
The beginning of each chapter is designed like a table of contents, but instead of numbers, it’s a progress dot, checking off if you’ve successfully completed a puzzle.
The storyboard backgrounds are simple and desaturated, letting the heavily stylized characters stand out against them. Everything is drawn with mostly soft edges and colored using soft, slightly-desaturated colors.
The characters have a colored-pencil texture that moves across them, keeping your eyes engaged even when you’re staring at an unmoving page for a few minutes. The texturing on each page leads me to believe that if I could run my hands across each page, it would have a soft, worn, and well-loved feel to it.
The music changes with each page you flip, fitting the prompt perfectly. Each audio track perfectly settles players into the fantasy narrative, occasionally twisting to be something more ominous or curious.
Each track loops well, so no matter how long you’re stuck on a puzzle, it is highly unlikely that you’ll grow sick of the music. If any game deserves a “Beats To Study To” compilation on YouTube, it’s Storyteller.
In addition to the standard audio are the sound effects, which I would be remiss not to elaborate on. Each character makes a sharp violin sound when you move them around the page, and if they interact with the background elements will make another noise to indicate a change in demeanor.
Moving the background panels results in a satisfying, echoed-thunk noise. You will notice a fun bubbling sound effect for the poison and wine backgrounds.
The audio may be simple, but it is one of the best elements of the game.
Filling The Imagination
Before diving into the gameplay, I should preface that many people have painted Storyteller as a “choose-your-own-adventure” type of game. It is not.
Storyteller certainly lets you mess around with the outcome of some puzzles. In some of them, the result of who lives and who dies or who has their heart broken is up to you, but for many of the later puzzles, the game is pretty strict in what the outcome will be and provides little wiggle room.
Each puzzle has a prompt at the top of the page that requires players to complete however they choose or can, with the supplied backgrounds and characters. Each background will provoke different reactions, require characters to take specific positions, or restrict the number of characters present.
The Wedding background will paint two characters as in love or will show one breaking the heart of another if their love was previously established. If put down enough times, the wine background will result in your chosen character getting drunk.
The backgrounds are the most significant part of the gameplay, completely shifting how a story progresses depending on how you lay them out on the storyboard. If you can pick out the unnecessary panels, you may not even use up all the provided space.
Each character has their own personality and will react to the situation accordingly, though this won’t be apparent until you’re in the late game. In fact, in the late game, it’s more of a detriment than a neat quirk.
Each character’s personality limits the endings you can achieve. This makes the puzzle harder to solve, true, which aids in the difficulty increase, but it totally destroys the concept of the game being a choose-your-own-adventure.
The biggest issue with the gameplay is that there just isn’t enough of it. The game is over all too soon, and you’ll be left wanting for an epilogue and dozens of extra chapters.
A Complex Story
Storyteller never leaves you in the dark about the solution. The game starts out with simple mechanics and a simple tutorial. As you progress through each story, it will gradually grow more difficult and increase the challenge of each puzzle.
Toward the end of the book, you may find yourself stuck on a puzzle for a while, flicking through panels, placing characters in a variety of assortments, and just trying to figure out what to do. But you have all the previous chapters that helped you get to that point and will give you the knowledge you need to solve each puzzle.
The increase in difficulty is well done, and by the time you’ve reached the final chapter, you can feel proud of yourself and what you’ve managed to accomplish, however short-lived it was.
Put A Bookmark In It
Like a lot of mobile games, it’s a one-and-done type of puzzle. To put it simply, once you finish the game, unless you have a horrible memory, Storyteller has no replay value.
Once you forget the answers to each puzzle, if you ever do, the game is over. There’s no going back to figure out secret solutions because that isn’t a possibility in the later parts of the game. At most, the game provides three to four hours of content and very little beyond that. There aren’t even enough achievements to justify a second playthrough.
A Tale As Old As Time
Storyteller is, admittedly, a bit of a unique game, and it’s hard to pick the perfect alternatives. But it’s not impossible. Considering that I’ve compared it to a mobile game, I’ve also opted to go ahead and pick out a few alternatives for mobile.
- A Little to the Left
- Little Misfortune
- The Life and Suffering of Sir Brante
- Nowhere House
- The Girl in the Window
- Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery
The Final Chapter
I don’t regret buying Storyteller, even if I think it’s overpriced for how much content there is. The game is USD$14.99, though it immediately went on sale at release for USD$13.49 I desperately wish that there was more content available or they plan to add more chapters to the game, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the case.
I enjoyed playing the game when it first came out because I couldn’t just go and google the solutions if I was stumped – I had to work through it, one bit at a time.
But there isn’t enough content for the price, and that’s the biggest sticking point. Storyteller feels like a mobile game that I would sit in my doctor’s office to play while I wait for them to call my name.
The fantasy storybook puzzle concept is fun, the graphics are great, and the music is even better, but it ends there. I finished the game in three hours, and unless I forget all the solutions, the game doesn’t have any replay value.
The Heros and the Villains
- Wonderful music.
- The graphics are enjoyable.
- Early gameplay is great, allowing a lot of wiggle room.
- Each puzzle builds on the last.
- The difficulty progression is well executed.
- There isn’t much gameplay.
- The game is pretty pricy for what’s there.
- Late gameplay is strict in what the outcome will be.
- Replayability doesn’t exist.
Question: Is Storyteller Free?
Answer: As of writing this review, Storyteller is not free and is listed on steam for $14.99.
Question: How Long is Storyteller?
Answer: At Most, Storyteller is three hours long.
Question: Where Can you Play Storyteller?
Answer: You can play Storyteller on the Nintendo Switch and through Steam on PC.
It took only a few hours for Tallis to see literally everything in the game, gaining every single achievement that Steam had to offer.
She finished every puzzle, even the ones with alternate-ending solutions, and was able to claim her ceremonial crown when all was said and done. She even waited through the credits three times for an epilogue, only to figure out they were looping when the credits started for the fourth time.