Storyteller from indie developer Daniel Benmergui and publisher Annapurna Interactive is one that looks and starts simple enough, but as it unfolds, reveals some surprising complexity behind its adorably illustrated pages. The name of the game is to build out scenes from iconic stories within a comic strip setup; dragging and dropping various characters and story elements in and seeing how they interact. As familiar as the stories and characters are, the task of piecing together scenes in Storyteller can prove to be quite the challenge.
Storyteller serves up multiple, bite-sized short stories. In total, there are 13 chapters with each chapter containing around three to four individual pages. Within these pages, you’ll find anywhere from three to six blank comic book type panels. It’s your job as the player to fill in these panels based around a title prompt.
For example, the first chapter “Life and Death” opens with a story about Adam and Eve. The first page focuses on Adam being alone, finding Eve and falling in love, and ends with Adam dying happily at the end. Simple enough, right? To have this play out properly in this page’s three panels, you’ll need to drag and drop Adam and Eve in spots that align with the title prompt.
The titles at the start of the game are kept simple and straight to the point, and when paired with a lesser number of panels to work with, it’s easy to figure out things out. As the game progresses, however, these stories become increasingly more complex and intricate. Not only with larger, more elaborate panel setups and additional characters, but also with vaguer, less explanatory titles.
I appreciated the game allowing me to go back and forth between its many pages and tackle puzzles in whatever order felt most comfortable. It allowed me to be able to focus on the puzzles I knew I could solve quickly to start, before doubling back and tackling the harder puzzles afterwards. As breezy as the first few chapters are, the puzzles that emerge later on proved to be more of a challenge. Especially given the fact that the game takes a more hands-off approach when it comes to clues or hints.
Missing puzzle pieces
It can be a struggle at times to know when you’ve got a portion of the puzzle right in Storyteller, with the game only rewarding you with that verification once you’ve completed the puzzle in its entirety. There are some nice open-ended elements on offer, like flexibility in some of the characters you pair up romantically, but some of the requirements as indicated by each page’s title can be confusing to properly execute the way the game wants you to at times.
Even if you feel you've executed a sequence of events correctly, having one small thing out of order, or one character in the wrong spot, can keep you stuck as you work to figure out what went wrong and where. With this, I wish the game had included options to indicate when I’ve completed one or more panels correctly. I feel like this would have helped me learn what was expected of me more, and would have helped save me the time of having to start certain puzzles over again from scratch because of the many different factors that can play into each other at once.
The process of trial and error can certainly be fun in Storyteller, though, as even the wrong answer can ultimately lead you to some wild outcomes worth seeing. There are also plenty of both small and large changes that can be made as you work to solve a puzzle. You could pull a certain character out of a panel, swap scenes, or move an entire panel to a different position. This remains the same formula for much of the game, with some repeating narrative themes and puzzles based around romance and murder. This can lead to feelings of repetitiveness at times, even with characters and circumstances changing with each story.
The end, or is it?
Storyteller is a game that’s both simple and increasingly complex at the same time. The first few stories are kept approachable enough so as to explain the mechanics to you without directly explaining them to you, but as you progress, the panels expand and the requirements grow less and less clear. If you’re a seasoned puzzle game pro, you’ll certainly appreciate this aspect of challenge that Storyteller offers. If you’re more of a casual puzzle game player though, or someone who needs instructions explained to you more in-depth, you may find yourself struggling to finish all of Storyteller's tales.
Nevertheless, the game is undeniably gorgeous and clever, and easy to drop in and out of. The stories and characters are fun to experiment with as well, and Storyteller ultimately does a great job at establishing itself as something wholly unique within the puzzle game space. It’s worth experiencing for the chance to get to see everything that could ever happen in a story — from what goes right, to what goes terribly, terribly wrong.
This review is based on a PC download code provided by the publisher. Storyteller is set to release on March 23, 2023 for Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.
- Creative approach to story-based puzzles
- Nice puzzle variety with some open-ended options
- Gorgeous animations, expressive characters
- Cozy classical background music
- Doesn't force linear progression
- Lack of clues adds extra challenge
- Lacks communication on individual things done correctly
- Narrative themes and puzzles can feel repetitive
Morgan Shaver posted a new article, Storyteller review: Tales as old as time
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