I thought Storyteller seemed promising when I first heard about the puzzle game way back in 2012, after it won the Nuovo award at the IGFs. Now that it's finally almost finished, I am delighted to play a demo in the Steam Next Fest and report back that yes, it's clever and quite delightful. Each puzzle presents you with a cast of characters, a few verbs and nouns, and an outcome which you must achieve by arranging everything in comic strip panels. Simple, clever, satisfying, and surprisingly funny.
How everything behave in panels is contextual, building on their innate character, relationships established in previous panels, and what's already happened. You know where each puzzle's story is headed but you need to figure out how to reach there, starting with a series of empty comic panels. You have to, you know, tell a story. It is fun to play with the different elements, figure out possible interactions, then eventually twig how it all comes together.
Here's an easy early example: Baron Murders Edgar. Your cast is blue-haired dandy Edgar, fair maiden Eleonora, and the dastardly Baron, and your panel backgrounds are Propose and Grave. First step is to figure out why the Baron might want to murder Edgar. Well, drag Propose into an empty panel, then pop in Edgar and Eleonora and those two will be in love. Set the next panel to Propose again, this time with Eleonora and the Baron, and the burly lad will be heartbroken that she's already in love. So cap the story off with a Grave panel, placing Edgar is in the ground and Baron standing before it, and the story logic will give him a bloody knife and a fierce scowl. You have successfully made murder happen. This gets more complicated with longer sequences, more complex stories to build, and more verbs and nouns. Finish all the puzzles and you'll unlock more complex versions of many too.
Storyteller had always seemed clever, but I hadn't expected it to be funny. The little animations for actions and reactions are charming, especially when your answer isn't right and something goes wrong. Along the way, you'll accidentally create more vampires, kill the wrong person, destroy marriages, and did I mention you'll kill lots of people? The stories to solve in the demo are largely romance, fairytale, and tragedy, so there's plenty of upset.
You can download Storyteller's demo from Steam as part of the Steam Next Fest demo-o-rama. Another demo was briefly available earlier this year, but this one is updated new bits including the ability to move whole panels around, more animations, and MacOS support.
Creator Daniel Benmergui put Storyteller development on hold in 2014, explaining that after three years of work he was "starting to feel creatively numb from always dealing with the same project". He moved onto a dungeon-crawling RPG named Ernesto, which later spawned 2017's Fidel Dungeon Rescue, a cute and fun roguelikelike puzzle game about plotting a good dog's route through dangerous dungeons. Now, Storyteller again. Hooray!
The full game is due to launch... at some point? But really for real this time.