Switch version tested
Review code provided
Eerie, eerie state…
In 1970, a then-young professor by the name of Masahiro Mori looked to explain the eerie state that the human mind succumbs to when presented with a human-like robot, starting with empathy and quickly turning to revulsion. He coined this term, the ‘Uncanny Valley.’ Since this phrase was first used, it has gone on to become one that is discussed in a wide variety of fields, from biology to computers and even in social circles. Now, it remains to be seen whether this is where Cowardly Creations conceived the name for their survival-horror game, however there are definite links as you play through it.
The story is an all-too-familiar one, steeped in vocabulary one would associate with a horror title. Abandoned, terrifying and uncover are just a few on offer in the Nintendo eShop listing:
You play as Tom, a security guard working the night shift at an abandoned facility in the middle of nowhere. Already troubled by disturbing dreams, Tom’s reality takes a terrifying twist as he explores the eerie offices and corridors of the facility and begins to uncover the shocking secrets hidden within its walls…
The storyline is shared in the opening stages with an introduction to the only other security guard, who shows you the ropes of the facility and your apartment. Throughout the game, you move between the two buildings in search of an understanding of what is occurring. You are required to run the night shift at the facility, then sleep during the day. The night shift is timed, and you are free to use the time in any way you wish: you might take the opportunity to explore the apartments for clues or the facility itself as you do the rounds. Whether you make it back to your apartment to sleep or fail to make it back and fall asleep where you stand, you experience horrifying dreams where you are being chased. From the outset, it is clear that all is not well, especially when you consider the fact that the facility is no longer in use, yet they still require security at all times.
The gameplay itself is also typical of the genre, with exploration, some light puzzle elements and some even lighter combat on offer. Effectively, you move between ‘corridors’ not too dissimilar to a ‘Scooby Doo’ cartoon, interacting with doors, objects and emails on computer screens. Through your interactions, you will identify opportunities to delve deeper into the mysteries plaguing the facility. These opportunities may present themselves from rare discussions with NPCs to reading employee emails or finding passages that require unlocking. They work well and definitely make you think of what to do next – I liked that it did not hold my hand.
Atmospheric and aesthetically pleasing
For any survival-horror game to be successful, there are two major elements that need to compliment the gameplay mechanics themselves. Whereas other game genres can get away with sub-par audio or generic visuals, the horror one has it quite difficult. The audio plays a pivotal role in setting the atmosphere and the visuals need to offer enough to truly feel the horror build. Fortunately, this is where ‘Uncanny Valley’ shines. The audio is spot on, and I chose to play the game through in handheld with my headphones on to immerse myself in the experience. Equally, I really like the 2D pixel art style. It is effective in delivering an experience of horror without losing its charm.
Every choice has a consequence…
Rather than failure always being greeted by death, Uncanny Valley uses a consequence system which imposes lasting effects on the player. For example, a mistake may result in a broken arm, which in-turn presents problems when trying to use a weapon. This changing dynamic impacts story and gameplay, requires players to rethink their approach to certain situations, and ensures a chilling sense of ever-present uneasiness.
With the games unique selling point being the inclusion of an in-depth consequence system which provides opportunities for the storyline to be manipulated, it makes for an interesting take on survival horror. Unfortunately, however, the reality of ‘Uncanny Valley’ is that it doesn’t offer enough to warrant multiple playthroughs – even with game time for completion coming in at around an hour and a half. There are three main reasons for this:
- Uncanny Valley becomes quite repetitive quite quickly. Moving between the facility and the apartment is laborious and dull, and is something you end up doing every 7 minutes at least.
- The consequence system doesn’t play out as well as is suggested, and rarely did I see an obvious consequence for my actions until the end of the game.
- The storylines are nothing short of bizarre. Although this could be deemed a positive, I got to the end of my first playthrough and did not have a clue how that particular ending had come to fruition.
Although often said, I truly wanted to enjoy ‘Uncanny Valley.’ I have come to love pixel art in games, and coupled with a consequence system and some excellent audio, ‘Uncanny Valley’ has all the makings of an excellent survival-horror. It is disappointing to see all the early promise fail to materialise into a game worthy of recommendation, with repetitive gameplay and poorly designed storylines proving too much of a stumbling block. The developers recommend multiple playthroughs to get the most from the game, however I cannot do the same. With so much choice on the eShop at present, there is many an alternative worthy of your time and money.
TBG Score: 5/10
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 25/12/2018 (Switch)
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Adventure
Developer: Cowardly Creations
Download link: eShop