Why all the nostalgia in gaming? It’s a question we ask a lot these days, as a combination of easier tools, Kickstarters, and the collapse of the wall between consoles and PCs makes developing games a simpler task, and catering to niche markets a necessity. Which brings us to Uncanny Valley, a pixel-art, side-scrolling 2D horror game that, for better and for worse, is exactly like the old-school games it’s patterned on.
Uncanny Valley (PS4 and Vita, Xbox One)
It has to be said, the work went into recreating the look and feel of old PC horror/adventure games. The graphics are pixel art but with smart use of modern tools like gradients, and the sound mix, while it could stand to be a bit less grainy and could bring down the sound effects in the mix slightly, has a pleasing mix of foley and score. That’s especially important as you slowly tease apart just why you’re working as a security guard in an isolated facility, and why you keep having horrific dreams of shadow monsters and ripped apart bodies chasing you.
Again, this is strictly old-school, right down to the mechanics. There are a few concessions to modernity, like using buttons instead of a menu when you’re playing the game, but by and large, you’ll be pointing, clicking, and occasionally running.
Uncanny Valley has some pretty straightforward gameplay; you wake up, you go on shift (i.e. poke around the facility you’re guarding) and go back to bed once your shift is over. As it progresses, you’ll delve further into the secrets, find a gun and limited ammo to defend yourself with, and hopefully fulfill a few goals. The main problem boils down to the fact that the gameplay is a little too strict and the controls a little too counter-intuitive.
For example, to interact with objects, you press X. So X will pick them up if they can put in your inventory, right? Nope. That’s R1. While it’s not the absolute worst control scheme, it does break immersion a little bit to have the actions spread across so many buttons. Not helping matters is the progression is a little convoluted; not being able to solve a line puzzle within the strict time limit, for example, doesn’t seem to have any actual consequences. It turns out it does, but how the action and consequences are connected is unclear. It’s the kind of video game logic that had you arranging soup cans for no good reason back in the day.
That hazy progression, combined with a branching story structure that’s not particularly clear, makes Uncanny Valley a bit exasperating at times. You only have roughly six minutes per level to explore a fairly large game world and once your “shift” is over, that’s it, back to bed you go. It’s full of interesting tidbits but it seems more interested in rushing you through the game rather than letting you uncover the story.
Depending on how much you want to dig, you can spend hours on this game, but we ultimately played it through for about eight hours.
Uncanny Valley is ultimately a lot of good ideas hamstrung by a lack of editing. It can be a gleefully creepy experience, provided you dig deep, but the strict time limit and unclear story might deter all but the most dedicated horror fans.
Verdict: Worth A Chance
Reviewed on a PS4 with review code.