The StoryTale by Maxim Nuriev
Classic video game genres can be much like classic fairy tales. At once familiar but mesmerizing, both are potent ways to take us back to the simpler times of our youth. Most of all, when done well, they can feel both contemporary but timeless.
Maxim Nuriev’s platformer The StoryTale takes inspiration from both, aiming to remind us both of influential 16-bit platformers and also the kinds of stories we remember reading as kids. For the most part, it even succeeds.
A Tale as Old as Time
Focusing on the dual quest of a sorceress princess and an immortal prince, The StoryTale is immensely simple to pick up and play. Each level requires you to find several keys in order to open the exit door, all while avoiding hordes of attacking goblins.
What starts off as two very similar experiences of “run, jump and dodge” quickly begins to shift as the princess is able to die but gains the use of magic, while the prince simply bounces off enemies and is eventually able to fend them off with weapons.
Despite its simple premise, one of the most interesting aspects of The StoryTale is its ability to mix up the formula with each new level. Sometimes you’ll have to help other creatures recover lost items. Other times it takes a page (pardon the pun) out of Braid and makes it so that time only moves when you do.
The constant variety keeps what could otherwise be a repetitive game fresh, and there’s even an additional challenge in the form of optional hearts to collect in each level.
Shape Your Story
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention The StoryTale’s gorgeous production values. The characters, enemies and environments are all rendered in gorgeous 16-bit, colorful graphics that give the game plenty of personality. The game’s soundtrack is also soothing and pleasant to listen to, although I did find the narration that opens each level to be less than impressive.
Unfortunately, for all the things The StoryTale does right, there are a few key things that keep it from being something truly special.
Most significantly, the controls feel very floaty and loose. It’s not always noticeable, but when you’re trying to weave your way through a narrow hallway full of angry goblins and deadly spikes, trust me, it becomes very clear.
There are also some unfortunate difficulty spikes to be found throughout the game, often as a result of frustrating enemy placement that ultimately makes clearing some parts feel more like luck than skill.
And the Story Ends
The StoryTale has an uphill battle to fight in the modern indie scene, as throwbacks to the 16-bit era of gaming aren’t exactly uncommon in 2020.
However, despite some noticeable rough edges, it still manages to be a charming and fun walk down memory lane with enough of its own identity. It may not quite reach the lofts it aims for, but if you’re in the mood for something comfortably familiar, there may just be space on your shelf for this tale.
The StoryTale is available via the Nintendo Game Store and Steam.
Watch the official trailer for The StoryTale below: