The promise of a captivating pixelated horror game will gain anyone’s interest. We’ve seen so many in recent years with the likes of Lone Survivor, The Slaughter and The Final Station. It’s a sure thing that Indie developers are fond of this format as it’s easy to create a great concept and bring it to live without a big budget. But with the market overloaded with pixelated horror titles, can another make an impact with gamers? Uncanny Valley hopes to.
We dive into the role of Tom, a quiet man who’s taken a night watchmen job at a scientific research center. The perfect situation and place for anyone who is running away from their past. With an unnerving introduction, it is clear that Tom is haunted by some pretty serious demons. His nightmares are vivid but always incorporate shadowy figures who are out to get him. Once at the Facility, Tom meets his colleague Buck, a miserable and foul mouthed guy who’s always trying to bring Tom down at the beginning of his shift. Tom’s new job places him wandering the corridors of the complex at night keeping an eye on things. But something strange is lurking underneath the surface of this quiet place and Tom is determined to find out.
Players will explore the world, speak to peculiar characters and perform night shift duties where you can investigate the facility to discover its true purpose. What’s interesting is how players can complete the first night shift and from this point can as they please until the conclusion. You can stay in bed sleeping the days away or explore other locations for clues and information that bring forth a conclusion. Sleeping in your bed will trigger a serious of dreams/nightmares where depending on your action, you’ll experience a different dream the next night. With each passing dream and night shift, you learn more about Tom and the work taking place at the facility. As a concept it’s enthralling and there’s more to be excited for.
Uncanny Valley proposes a captivating survival horror game where you choices make a huge impact in the narrative. These could be small things such as sleeping on the job to murdering a supporting character early in the game. The choices are varied and indeed you can alter the game at your own will to create a conclusion that will reward or disturb you to the bone. With each playthrough you learn more of the world and even with failure; you gain a better understanding of the narrative. The nature of this game feels very close to a sophisticated trail and error format.
While the concept is great for the first few hours, Uncanny Valley is an immersive and highly gripping tale that that harbors some major issues. But as the playthroughs stack up you’ll soon realize that the game’s choices internally lack depth or substance. Achieving a better ending doesn’t hold a true sense of reward and mystery never amounts to a satisfying reveal after the intense build up. There are many choices to make but overall these mostly felt as though they led to the same end point. The differences seem to be minor alterations with character placement, pacing and you only really get two different types of endings. The bad endings hold more suspense, leaving you with more the urge to come back and try again. While the better endings just rush past the finish line, leaving many unanswered questions and an empty conclusion.
This is meant to be inspired by shows such as Twin Peaks and games such as “Home”, but fails in a way to create a conclusion that would be worth the wait. Home showcased a narrative that would leave you to conclude the story after searching for vital clues. There were half a dozen different outcomes but they all made sense and left you satisfied at the end.
What doesn’t help are some of the poorly executed gameplay elements. The idea of exploring this isolated and harrowing facility at night is engrossing at first but soon becomes a long winded chore as nothing really happens, apart from one night where the power is cut. There are little things to do such as playing an arcade machine and collecting tapes to reveal a tragic love story. But the core of the game has only one main puzzle and it requires endless digging through dozens of emails on different PCs to find a combination to a safe and later on the location of a key. I understand there’s the factor of choice and this is what saves Uncanny Valley from the realms of complete boredom. The nightmares, aspect of choice early in the game and finally making your way to the place that will reveal the truth is gripping. It’s just in later stages the game shows signs of struggling.
The execution of certain gameplay mechanics, i.e. the stealth gameplay is a little crude and inconsistent. It seems as though your enemies have the poorest of eye sights yet performing a slight jog a mile away draws their attention. While patrolling patterns of NPCs can infuriate you when the placements are so poor, they block your path with no way for you to progress without suffering some dire consequences. I did however like the fact that your enemies are truly relentless, breaking through doors and chasing you even when they’re burning to death. Plus their voices are f***ing creepy.
It may sound like I’m ripping this game but there are many aspects I did like. The sound design is fantastic with a beautifully creepy soundtrack while the little voice work in the game is effective to unnerve you to a distressing point. The art style hits the mark for the most part, looking very detailed, rich in color and eerily pretty in the right places. As said the first few hours are the most interesting and the developers have done a great job are building a suspenseful mystery with a highly captivating nature. It’s a shame that the choice by the end feel a little shallow and the writing can’t handle a plot that wants to deliver something fascinating.
Also, the game has a few annoying graphical bugs.
Uncanny Valley is a brave attempt at bringing a rich story with dynamic choice elements in a horror setting. While the first hours are pretty great, other several playthroughs you’ll learn that the game has little to reward you with and folders into a bland series of climaxes and unanswered questions. This is definitely a game with great potential but falls short towards the end. I hope Cowardly Creations comes back with something bigger and better that truly matches their ambitious desires in game design.
An Xbox One Product Code for Uncanny Valley was Provided by Cowardly Creations for the Purpose of this Review