Crafting a story can feel a bit like solving a puzzle. Sometimes you know your point A and point B, but it’s that space between that can be difficult to fill in. How do your characters arrive at the next big plot beat? What needs to happen to get them there in a way that feels natural? Each word becomes a puzzle piece that needs to be carefully placed in order to make it all make sense.
That’s the exact idea at the heart of Storyteller, the latest release from publisher Annapurna Interactive, The unique puzzle game turns simple fairy tales into a thought experiment, tasking players with building a logical sequence of events from established characters and settings. It’s a charming concept that makes for some good logic puzzles, but it’s also an easy introduction to story crafting. You probably won’t write the next great novel after playing it, but it might make you think differently about what goes into building even the smallest story.
Storyteller is laid out like a book of fairytales. In a clever bit of UI, each puzzle is presented like a different chapter in a book. Loading into one will open what’s essentially a simplified comic strip creator where players can place objects across a few panels. The layout of each puzzle is the same: A line of text describes what’s supposed to happen in the story and it’s the player’s job to put images to those words.
In each puzzle, players only get a few key characters and backdrops to work with, which keeps anything from becoming overwhelming. For instance, one four-panel puzzle simply says “A heartbreak is healed.” I have two characters to work with and three sets: wedding, death, and revive. It doesn’t take long for me to piece it together. I show the lovers getting married in panel one, and then put one of them on a tombstone in panel two as the other grieves at their grave. Panel three shows the dead lover resurrecting, using the revival set. I finish it off by placing both in the wedding set once again, reuniting them and solving the puzzle.It’s an ingenious little system that makes for some clever, often funny solutions. Part of the joy comes from experimenting with each piece and testing how they interact with one another. In one puzzle dubbed “The Queen marries,” I can force the Queen into marrying a Baron by having him pose as a dragon and kidnap her. When he takes the costume off and “rescues” her, the two fall in love and can be married. Or you can solve it as I did: by having the Baron kidnap the Queen, then returning dressed as a dragon to rescue her, causing the Queen to fall in love with a dragon. Moments like that reward playful thinking, giving players some secret bonus objectives to chase.
I also got a kick out of seeing some classic tales recreated and turned into bite-sized puzzles. There’s a whole chapter that riffs on both Snow White and The Princess and the Frog, combining the two into a series of puzzles built around froggy curses and a judgmental mirror.
While it’s mostly a quick and pleasant experience, it does hit an abrupt difficulty spike right at the end that had me entirely stumped on just two puzzles. With no hint system, those sticking points can feel like a dead end right at the final chapter — a bit ironic considering it’s a game about correctly building to a story’s endpoint. Game design, like storytelling, is no easy puzzle.
That final challenge doesn’t take away from Storyteller’s unique charm, thankfully. Developer Daniel Benmergui has crafted a sweet little puzzler here that communicates its thesis about story crafting in a concise, aesthetically pleasing manner. You can’t jump into your favorite writer’s head and see how their brain works, but Storyteller will at least help you visualize what that writing process often looks like.