A charming puzzle game with a unique setup
Puzzle games are dime a dozen out there, with the rise of mobile platforms and a vastly expanded casual audience market in the past decade. This led to a lot more options in all corners of the market – from the simplistic cut-the-rope type games you play on the go, to the more focused and traditional titles like Return to Monkey Island and The Talos Principle. It has become more and more difficult to create something noteworthy and original in the genre, but the recently released game Storyteller offers a pleasant enough surprise. Its name may be unfortunately extremely generic, but the game itself has a sense of charm and a sprinkle of originality about it.
Storyteller looks and feels like a story book, as each puzzle takes place on a pair of pages within. You'll have to progress through a series of such pages, with a simple task of getting a specific outcome that's outlined at the top of each page. These goals are sometimes simple to understand, and at other times a bit more obtuse. Within the page, players see between three and six boxes, to be filled with imagery. And at the bottom, you've got the available selections for that particular puzzle – usually offering a few scenes and characters to choose from.
For example, you may have a goal of getting the wrong person arrested for a murder committed by the butler. You drag the scenes – such as a gun, a ballroom, and a witness – onto the empty tiles. Each scene has a specific purpose or interaction trigger, and by then placing the available characters within these scenes, you are able to create the scenario. So you place the gun, and then the butler onto the scene, which makes him pick it up. If you use the butler again in the next story tile, he will have the weapon, and if you place yet another scene, he will put it back. These sorts of continuities lie at the heart of the puzzles, as the limited number of scenes creates the challenge of how to achieve your goal.
In another scenario, you may be asked to recreate Romeo & Juliet. So you place a chapel with two characters, to have them fall in love. Next you place a scene with one of them dead, the other mourning. Next, the character stricken with grief will drink poison if you place them into the poison scene (but will be confused if they are not sad at that point of the story). You then revive the original character, and the next few tiles follow the same steps as the 2nd character now drinks the poison.
These challenges are what makes up the entire Storyteller experience. The simple design is very easy to understand and it can be fun as you are rolling through the little stories, setting up the chain reactions of events and placing the right combinations of characters within the scenes. This simplicity is a double-edged sword however, as pacing can be inconsistent. You will blow through most puzzles quickly, but then might get stuck on a few, as you miss a critical character interaction chain or put the events in a wrong order. It leads to eureka moments, but they are not necessarily satisfying in this case.
If you do get stuck, you can simply skip a puzzle page and return to it later. Despite the straightforward mechanics, the settings of the stories keep player interest going, as you draw up crime mysteries, romance stories, and fights for the control of the crown. Depending on how quickly you can get through each challenge, the game runs at only about 90 minutes, which is not a long time, but it's also priced at only $15 USD and it avoids the repetition settling in.
Just like the puzzles, the controls and presentation elements are uncomplicated but welcoming and pleasant to engage with. Mouse controls are straightforward as you drag scenes and characters into the pages of the storybook. You can just as easily drag them out, or re-arrange existing scenes to see how it affects the flow of the story logic. The warm visual art style matches the game well, with simple yet endearing character designs and animations. A minimalistic soundscape completes this charming but occasionally challenging puzzling game.