Uncanny Valley Review [Switch] – Running Away Leads To More Trouble

Sometimes you just need a fresh start – a switch in lifestyles. To pack your things and go. Sometimes you just need to take the risk for your own sanity or to better yourself. A new start, wiping your history, forward thinking is human nature – we run. But no matter how far you run, the past will catch up and come to terms with; for your own sanity… or to better yourself. Jack Boyles reviews Uncanny Valley…

Uncanny Valley has you playing as Tom who is starting a new job as a nightshift security guard in an isolated, abandoned facility. At the start of the game, Tom is a man who appears to be running from something in his past, evidence from the decision to work for this employer and the nightmares that inhabit his dreams.

Though Tom is not completely alone, he has the company day shift security guard, Buck who is rather a lazy man and Eve, a woman who keeps the facility clean and is reminded of someone in her past when she sees Tom. And that my gorgeous reader, is all you are going to know about the story because the less you know, the better the experience.

Uncanny Valley is a narrative-driven survival horror game that states in the opening:

‘Every action you take within the game will lead to different outcomes. To fully experience Uncanny Valley, multiple playthroughs are recommended’.

There is much to uncover in Uncanny Valley. However, do not be put off by the multiple playthroughs, as a playthrough can last anywhere from 20 minutes to roughly 3 hours maximum. It’s this short length that makes Uncanny Valley compelling to play multiple times.

Moreover, the story-driven game will make you play it several times since, in my opinion, this is one of the better horror narratives out there. It may not have the symbolism and subtext of Silent Hill or the Hollywood budget of Resident Evil. What Uncanny Valley offers is a more grounded and thought-provoking horror experience.

You routinely (well you don’t have to if you don’t want to) go to work, this repeated mundanity gives you time to explore the facility. Picking breadcrumbs of information scattered across the facility, finding out what happened there. If you are like me, you may figure out what’s happening before the reveal. But when I saw the reveal for the first time, it didn’t stop it from being impactful; it was more impactful. It’s kind of Hitchcockian in that way; let the audience know to build the tension and it’s that slow build of tension that makes Uncanny Valley’s narrative compelling.

Furthermore, your actions really alter the game, with many of my playthroughs having different events, scenarios and endings. It’s in your second playthrough you start to realize how these actions really do affect these outcomes. As one new small change can alter your previous conception of coming events. A small detail you may have forgotten about in the first playthrough may have a much bigger impact.

The developer Cowardly Creations, not only make you think about the decisions you can make but how your knowledge of coming events may still influence your current playthrough.

Additionally, it’s not only narrative consequences you must think of when playing Uncanny Valley. The gameplay can be affected by the consequence system as Tom can get injured in various parts of the body stopping him doing certain actions. A knee injury will stop Tom from crawling in vents or an injured arm will affect him using a weapon.

Marketed as a 2D pixel art story-driven survival horror game, I feel the game takes its cues from adventure games. Gameplay is more about solving puzzles using lateral thinking to progress the story or get you out of situations.

Also, there is a slight stealth mechanic, requiring you to hide more than fight due to the enemies withstanding bullets. Hiding spots such as vents are advisable due to Tom’s lack of stamina – making him easy prey if spotted.

Credit is due to the sound designer for making the enemies terrifying. Hearing the loud bang of the enemy’s movements will instantly set a sense of dread within you as you know if they see you… Tom’s physique is no match. The loud grunted speech when they spot you will jolt you with fear, making you panic.

Added with the raw pixel art aesthetic, it tonally hits its mark. The pixel art, with its limited fidelity mirrors that of the narrative, uncertainty; enough detail for you to know what’s happening but with the finer details missing.

The game isn’t for everyone though. Many players may dislike having to start again and not loading saves at various points to change story outcomes. Another issue I could see some players having is that Tom struggles to defend himself even with a handgun — not being able to run for long period of time; as the result in death can see you starting from the beginning of the game.

I did encounter a glitch where Buck went home from his shift for him to reappear at the end of my shift. It was nothing game breaking and didn’t affect anything storyline wise; though hopefully, nothing like that will come at important times within the game.

Uncanny Valley is a narrative based survival horror game that rivals other indie horror titles and some AAA horror titles. The story twists and turns like a great thriller novel.

Added with the sense of foreboding atmosphere and some terrifying moments executed by its tension building techniques. For me, it’s a great horror experience, throwing away the generic jump scare an opting for an unsettling experience.

As the game is relatively short, it goes hand in hand with the Switch’s pick up and play design. There always feels like there is more to uncover and you will want to keep starting afresh to find what else Uncanny Valley has up its sleeve.

Advertisements

Hello Neighbor Review [Nintendo Switch] – Great Idea, Little Satisfaction

One would imagine that if you backtrack before the release of Hello Neighbor by Dynamic Pixels, before coding and artwork, before storyboards and script writing, someone, somewhere had a great idea for an amazing game.

Hello Neighbor [Switch] – Great Idea, Little Satisfaction

They wrote pages and pages of scribbled notes on a napkin sitting at a diner booth in the late hours of the night, drinking coffee and eating a cold plate of fries. This budding game designer would feverishly jot down ideas for a wild new concept that would revolutionize a genre. As their fries got colder and the napkin count rose, a fully fleshed out world would start to take shape.

I am sure whatever was written on those grease-stained napkins was pure genius, but that genius never made it past the face towelette stage. Hello Neighbor, a self-professed “Stealth Survival Horror” game, might have sounded like a spectacular idea at the start, but what we got will more likely make you weep then shake in your boots.

Hello Neighbor Review
Hello Neighbor Review

The main objective is to sneak into your shady neighbor’s house and find a way to break into the basement to discover his dirty secret(s). You have the option of going through open bedroom windows, the front door, via the roof, and more. Be careful though, if the evil neighbor catches you, he’ll throw you out on the street. If he sees you lurking outside, he’ll jump through the closed window to boot you onto the curb. Magically, the window gets fixed in an instant.

Sounds easy enough, but as you find different ways of infiltrating, the Neighbor finds new ways of stopping you. The A.I. in the game is meant to counter your every move. Where once the front door was open and clear, now there will be cameras watching. Certain windows will have bear traps to stop you, or the Neighbor will find new shortcuts to get to you before you complete your mission.

If you manage to make it in the house, you can hide in cabinets and under tables as your enemy searches frantically to no avail. The house itself grows with new rooms and ways of getting lost, which I found to be pretty neat.

Hello Neighbor Review
Hello Neighbor Review

It should all be fun and innovative, but instead, feels clunky, buggy, and frustrating. For instance, you can stack boxes to reach a window, but the physics engine seems to be off. The boxes are infuriatingly easy to knock over before ever getting anything done. It reminds me of a late ’90s virtual reality game that you think is going to be really awesome but ends up disappointing your childhood.

The colour pallet looks as if Thomas the Tank Engine had a baby with Marge Simpson, and then gave it up for adoption to Gumby. It’s not that I hate the way everything looks, it’s just that it has this uncomfortableness about it.

Hello Neighbor Review
Hello Neighbor Review

There was one thing I did like about the game, and that’s a rather interesting auditory experience. If you listen carefully, you can hear the Neighbor’s footsteps as he walks inside and outside of the house (and it’s easy to differentiate between the two).

You can hear him as he is using the kitchen or bathroom sink, snoring in the living room, or grumbling to himself. The Neighbor will even turn on a record player or a broken TV, which you can then turn off by sneaking in through a window. Eliminating the extraneous noise allows the player to hear better and locate where the Neighbor might be at a given time. Out of all the things the developers were going for, I really enjoyed this one specific play mechanic the best. It isn’t perfect, but it’s fun.

Truth be told, I never made it too far into unlocking the mystery of it all, but that’s mostly because I stopped caring. I know this review sounds harsh, but that’s probably because I feel the concept is actually really cool, just poorly executed.

I Love the idea of an A.I. that learns and makes things harder minute by minute. I love the idea of using your senses to avoid the enemy and solve the puzzle. I am a huge fan of using your surroundings to aid in the quest. I just wish it all came together better.

Hello Neighbor Review
Hello Neighbor Review