Uncanny Valley kicks off with a tension-filled dream sequence, giving a brief introduction to protagonist Tom as he confronts his demons in the form of shadowy figures that are continually in pursuit of him. Hoping to get away from it all for awhile, Tom moves out to a remote location to take a job working security at a mysterious facility. Taking on the twilight shift, Tom has to make sure everything is kept in shipshape during the late hours. Of course, this is a horror game, so it’s not too long before Tom starts to uncover some of the dark secrets of the facility…
It’s all a bit ‘run of the mill’ as far as the horror side of the game goes, but the story is still entertaining and does enough to hook you in. Tom is joined by two intriguing characters during the course of the game, both of whom play a big role in how everything ends up playing out: Buck is the security guard who works the day shift, whilst Eve cares for the facility. Interactions between Tom and these characters are always interesting, whilst seeing how they react to each situation that arises in the game is curious too. Uncanny Valley is a really well-written game, though it can be a little guilty of cutting out some obscurities in favour of making plot points a bit more obvious to the player. It’s not that the game is incredibly predictable, but it won’t take a genius to work out what’s going to happen further on in the game.
The player gets to make different choices that affect how things play out and helps determine what ending you’ll get, providing you with a different experience each time you play through the game. There are a fair few endings to unlock so there’s plenty of reason to come back – working out how exactly you unlock them may take some time though, especially with the game’s ‘consequence system’ at work.
Whilst there are plenty of different gameplay mechanics to be found in Uncanny Valley, the most critical element of the game is the ‘consequence system’. I’ve already touched upon how the choices you make can affect the way that Uncanny Valley plays out, but the way you PLAY can make a difference too. Simple things such as getting hurt by the enemy a lot may feel inconsequential in a typical video game, but the effect it had on how a later event in Uncanny Valley plays out can make the difference in what ending you get. There are even smaller things that can make a difference too, such as how much exploration you do on your shift as well as if you hit the sack a little early. The game plays out across multiple days, so how you approach your time management is up to you.
I found the ‘consequence system’ a really intriguing dynamic that kept playing Uncanny Valley an unpredictable experience – it gave me a sense of freedom that actually felt even deeper than that found in video games like those from Telltale Games, something which is pretty impressive for such a small developer. Whilst the overall experience as a whole is much shorter, you simply never know what sort of impact the choices you make and things you do are going to have on Tom’s fate in the long run.
It took me around two hours to finish my first playthrough of Uncanny Valley, though that might differ for others seeing as some of my other playthroughs came in a lot shorter. Knowing where to go and what to do helps on subsequent playthroughs, especially when all you want to do is make a simple change of choice. It’s a good thing, especially since the game is not only complimented by multiple playthroughs but actually demands it if you really want to get the most out of it.
Outside of progressing through the narrative there are a few puzzles and combat elements to the game. Puzzling plays out in an almost point and click style with certain items in your inventory being used to interact with the environment. It could feel a little awkward to control though – the game came out on PC with a mouse and keyboard in mind, so having to drag each item to interact with your surroundings felt a little clumsy with a controller. It doesn’t really deter from the experience though, but is rather something that just bugged me from time to time. There are puzzles that don’t fall into this category too though, so it’s not all fuss with the controller.
The more action focused parts of the game typically see you trying to evade or take out enemies. These play out a lot better then the puzzling and are better suited for a controller, especially when handling firearms to take out some of Tom’s foes. Actual instances of combat are few are far between though; the narrative feels like Uncanny Valley’s centrepiece, so combat sequences feel like something small you do in-between the story progressing. You certainly shouldn’t go into the game expecting an action-orientated survival horror experience!
Visually Uncanny Valley adopts a similar pixel-based style that we’ve seen in other horror titles such as ‘Lone Survivor’, ‘Claire’, and ‘Home’. It’s all very simple in design but still manages to feel atmospheric thanks to the great lighting effects and creepy enemy designs, plus the game is complimented by plenty of slick animations. Every character you encounter in the game moves in a way that conveys both their emotions and their physical appearance (take Buck’s plodding walk for example) and the game artist deserves some credit for making this show with such a simplistic art style to work with. The environments look impressive too, with the sullen facility feeling inhabited and offering plenty of dark sights for you to see.
Whilst I’m a fan of the simplistic pixel-based graphic style of Uncanny Valley, the way that the in-game text is represented is a little distracting. For some reason the developer decided to simplify the way text appears in-game with words having a blocky look that leaves certain letters appearing a little unclear. Sure, it’s certainly readable, but it’s a little distracting to have to squint a little just to differentiate specific letters. It’s simply an odd design choice.
It’s probably worth mentioning that Uncanny Valley originally released in 2015 on the PC. When I played it back then I encountered quite a lot of bugs and errors that made it quite the frustrating experience – they were incredibly random too, so you’d never know if you’d actually be able to complete a playthrough. Thankfully my time with the Playstation 4 version of the game has seen absolutely no bugs or crashes, with each playthrough I had finishing with no issues. That being said, I did try out the Playstation Vita version of the game too and came across a ton of lag in the opening sequence. I don’t know if it’s fixed now in time for release, but it’s something with noting if you’re considering opting for the portable release of the game.
Uncanny Valley offers a dark adventure that’ll certainly keep horror fans intrigued throughout their time with the game. The ‘consequence system’ keeps things varied and unpredictable, whilst also adding a sense of longevity that’s often missing from shorter video games – it won’t take you long to play through Uncanny Valley, but at least it gives you an incentive to come back for.
It’s not the most thrilling experience from a gameplay perspective nor will it terrify gamers, but it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re into horror titles. Uncanny Valley does enough right to justify a purchase, whilst the clever way it gives gamers multiple ways to approach their playthrough shows that it’s got some unique tricks of its own up its sleeve too.
Developer: Cowardly Creations
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Release Date: 08/02/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Playstation Vita, PC