Storyteller review: Let me tell you a story where you pick the verbs
(Switch/PC) ***** Age: 15
From the germ of an idea more than a decade old comes a unique puzzle game that blends logic with imagination. Argentinian developer Daniel Benmergui first touted a recognisable draft of Storyteller on the indie circuit back in 2012. But even that was the evolution over several years of numerous prototypes he’d sketched out previously.
In at least one notable way, Storyteller (out now for PC and Switch) is reminiscent of those old real-world block-shuffling puzzles, where one square is missing and you must slide the pieces around until you’ve made sense of the picture.
The premise of the game is that each level — presented in a cheerful children’s book-style series of panels — offers you the title of a fairy tale and asks to you to assemble the cast, locations and actions to fulfil the story. You might recognise many of the plots as variations on Shakespearean tragedy or farce, interspersed with macabre whimsy drawn from the likes of Hans Christian Andersen. To give you an idea, sample titles include “The queen is deceived into marriage”, “The curse is broken” and — my favourite — “The duchess gets the butler arrested (but the duke isn’t home)”.
At its simplest, Storyteller may present you with a pair of characters, a single scene and a couple of verbs (drink, kiss, etc). Then you must wrangle them into the correct positions in the right order — make the couple fall in love, before one of them accidentally quaffs poison and the other loses the will to live. Success in this case means satisfying a tragic arc, although not all of the stories avoid a happy ending. Nonetheless, like many a fairy tale, Storyteller is laced with dark undertones and you will get your hands dirty.
Of course, once you’ve learned the ropes, Storyteller loses little time in multiplying the complexity of your quandaries. Where you initially contended with, say, a mere heartbroken cuckold, now you’re solving crimes, introducing backstabbing misdirection, executing queens or riffing on Waiting For Godot.
Storyteller likes to imply there are multiple solutions to all these tasks. And, in truth, there’s a pleasingly agnostic and unjudgmental view of polygamous, gay and mercenary relationships. But the game applies a strict underlying logic to most of the levels, with limited deviation allowed for the player to supply their own flourish.
As such, you may find yourself dementedly rotating the order of the story panels in the hope of hitting on the solution, as if completing one of those aforementioned block-shifting puzzles.
Recognising the limited number and finite nature of its moral pickles, Storyteller retails for a mere €14, which is a small price to pay for a decade’s work on intrigue and manipulation.