Saturday, December 29, 2018

Review: Uncanny Valley [Nintendo Switch eShop]


The nature of horror can be interesting, as it’s not all about blood, guts, and gore or jump scares. The essence of horror is really that feeling in the pit of your stomach, a sense of unease that you can’t shake and that unnerves you. Of course there are some risks to trying to make games that work on these feelings, as first not everyone will react the same way to the same stimulus but more critically tensions building over the unknown can be powerful but then failing to deliver something that fully capitalizes on all of that suspense can be a real bummer. This is the tightrope Uncanny Valley tries to walk and though I can see where some people will find it compelling and interesting others simply won’t see what the fuss is about.


Rather than try to relate any of the details of the story and take anything away from the experience the basics are that you’re playing as Tom, a man who is obviously troubled and has some demons. Taking a job out in the middle of nowhere as a security guard his hope seems to be to make some money, try to relax, and find some peace. Unfortunately, as you make your way around the building on patrol you’ll inevitably begin to bump into information, whether in the form of emails or audio tapes, that begin to reveal that something weird is going on.

As the strangeness comes to a peak, with you trying to gather as much information as you can in your shift before going to sleep and facing terrible nightmares, the tension gets to be pretty delicious. Where it then goes in the latter half is then open to interpretation though, largely dependent on the choices you’ve made, how you’ve gone about your investigation, and maybe a little luck as well. In order to really see the picture you’ll likely need to go through several runthroughs of the game, learning what to do and what to avoid in the hopes of making sense of it all.


Overall, Uncanny Valley is a bit of a gamble, banking on drawing you in with the initial weirdness and sense of unease, and that being enough to then sustain your interest as you continue to attack the game from different angles in search of a better outcome. I have no doubt some people will enjoy the mystery and the investigation of it all, exploring choices in the hopes of better seeing the big picture. For everyone else, though, either interest will wane before the first runthrough is completed or when it becomes clear that a fair amount of repetition will be in order to understand what exactly is going on.

Score: 6

Pros:
  • Creepiness permeates the early game as you try to understand what’s going on
  • Whether you realize it or not there’s a fair amount of player choice driving the outcome of events

Cons:
  • The game gambles on you being willing to play through it multiple times, hooked on making different choices and piecing together the puzzle it puts in front of you
  • Whether or not the payoff is worth the investment will be a matter of opinion