Uncanny Valley (PC)
The main character, Tom, is hired as a security guard in a remote location. Soon after arriving he realizes that the simple job at a boring empty building is much more than he signed on for.
- Real time: Tom has to patrol each night for 7 minutes. Once that time is up he needs to get back to bed, or risk passing out from exhaustion. Do you do your job, or poke around a few moments more to dig deeper into the mysteries?
- Consequence system: The developers tried to make it so each decision you make changes gameplay, and you won't have to replay sections just because you 'failed' them.
- Pixel Graphics: If you ever wish Silent Hill came out on the NES, look no further.
OS: Windows 7
Processor: 2.5 Ghz
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: Direct X9.0c Compatible Card
DirectX: Version 9.0
Storage: 200 MB available space
1-2 hours per play through. Multiple plays suggested.
April 23, 2015
PC, Xbox One, PS4
Uncanny Valley is a pixel-graphics survival horror game made by a group of college students in Slovenia. After getting the game on Indiegogo and Steam’s Greenlight program, they were able to make their first indie release game, hoping to bring back “real” survival horror where players had to rely on their wits more than their trigger finger. For the most part they succeeded, but with few small hiccups.
Your one coworker, Buck, has no problem dropping multiple curse words despite just meeting you in the opening scene. In reading staff emails, you can come across one with curses and a graphic hypothetical metaphor.
The main character Tom can be attacked in many different ways. In one particular ending, he can lose his limbs while conscious. In the background of different levels, you can see violently mutilated and dismembered bodies. The pixel graphics make things worse at times for the imagination, since you’re left to imagine the horrors enacted upon Tom or the other characters.
In one scene, Tom is in a bar. He can spend a small amount on beer, and others are drinking as well. Someone is puking in the toilet, but no one else seems adversely effected by drinking.
It’s difficult to speak at length about Uncanny Valley without venturing into spoiler territory, but I’ll try to keep those to a minimum. Uncanny Valley is a game trying to get back to the origins of survival horror, instead of dual-barrel action hero game with a few zombies thrown in. In many ways, they succeeded. The protagonist Tom has no weapon at all to start the game, and his flashlight only works when he’s walking or standing still. He can only sprint for a few seconds (about five), but then has to walk to catch his breath. This sounds really short, but when you pair this mechanic with how time passes in Uncanny Valley, it makes sense.
Each shift for Tom lasts seven minutes, which you can check at the bottom of the screen with the “T” button. He’s supposed to check in with the day guard Buck (who always comments that you’re late, even if you sprint straight there) then patrol the floors of the empty Melior building, where they used to make robotics of some kind. Pair that with the actual meaning of “uncanny valley” and you may start to guess where this is going for our poor protagonist. So if seven minutes equals a full night shift, then a minute of game time is at least an hour for Tom, so his puny 5 second sprint becomes a 5 minute dash. Keeping this knowledge in mind made it slightly less annoying when he had to walk or stop running every few moments.
Tom takes a night guard job at this remote facility, when strange things start to happen. Small things at first, like recurring nightmares featuring shadowy figures. Tom can’t be harmed in these sections, but his decisions in them will affect what happens next in the game. The game does not tell you when Tom is dreaming or awake, so there are times when you’ll have to read your surroundings to know what kind of danger he’s really in. This is where the sound design shines—when the intense music kicks in, you’ll immediately know it’s time to use his full 5-second sprint away from danger.
Players will also have to contend with puzzles, both in the traditional and more hidden sense. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say it would serve you well to pay attention when skimming employee’s emails, both for story and clues. Once you make progress—usually a few days into the game—you can unlock the lower levels of the facility, which are increasingly fraught with dangers. It’s much more beneficial to hide than try and fight or run away from enemies in this area. You really don’t want to get caught.
Uncanny Valley’s Consequence system is interesting, but somewhat frustrating at first. It took a couple plays for me just to understand how the system worked, and how to try to get a better outcome for Tom. So far, my results have been somewhere in-between and including the end of “Terminator” (bleak possible future) and “Saw” (very bad, very bloody, what just happened). On the plus side, players have the knowledge they acquired on previous games (items and codes aren’t randomized), so that makes replays more forgiving. The down side is, you still have to plod through the first few slow parts of the game, and if you get a bad ending, it wipes out your save. You can’t just reload and go again; you have to start 100% over. Even in a short story cycle like this, that’s annoying.
Overall Uncanny Valley is an interesting take on the survival horror genre, and while I’m glad I got a chance to play it, I’ll probably take a break before jumping back in. Anyone looking to get more of a retro Silent Hill vibe should give it a try, keeping in mind that the game wants you to play multiple times, so if that doesn’t sound fun you may want to look elsewhere. Anyone still interested will find a well-done game with creepy atmosphere, frightening enemies, and a truly average-Joe protagonist who just wants to catch up on some sleep.
+ Short gameplay length encourages replay
+ Creepy setting that keeps you on your toes
+ Relatable main character who isn't superhuman
- First half-hour of game might feel tedious after 2-3 times through
- Game could feel frustrating for those used to feeling powerful in games
- Small decisions that affect major moments later can be annoying if you don't know what you're doing