The uncanny valley is a concept that relates to how human-like something can become before it becomes creepy. More specifically, the concept relates to a certain point when something becomes a little too human looking and begins conjuring uncomfortable feelings such as discomfort or even disgust. Knowing this, players may be able to get a slight idea of what to expect from Cowardly Creation’s game of the same name, Uncanny Valley. Attempting to tap into what made old school horror games so scary, Uncanny Valley places players in the shoes of a man who has frequent night terrors and has just started a new job as a night security guard.
While this may not seem terribly scary or creepy on the surface, well that’s the point. The night terrors help to show what state of mind our protagonist is in while the new job cements the uneasy feeling that the games art and sound naturally stirs up. This is all compounded upon by the game’s inventory system and use of real-time to limit how long players have to explore each night. Normally, players have as much time as they need to look around and get a feeling for an area in similar games. Since Uncanny Valley limits each night to a little over 5 minutes, players will feel pressured to move from area to area as fast as they can.
Outfitted with a flash light and a short sprint, players can expect to run through several hallways in frustration as they find nothing but emails to read. Not that these emails aren’t useful, they just take time to read and fully digest, meaning less time to really explore. Other than emails, there are also tapes and cassettes with useful back story information on them. I tried to make it a priority to grab these when I could and I managed to easily find all the cassettes. Although, if a player chooses to ignore their instinct to explore and actually does as they are told, they are met with something a little strange.
The game rewards players that do as their told with a story of a man who walks around a building for a few nights in a row as his job. Realistically, this is more of a punishment as there is a much darker and far more interesting story lurking right underneath the surface. This story and all of its secrets will only be revealed to the players that choose to snoop around and do some rather unorthodox things in the pursuit of hidden knowledge. Without ruining anything I will say that I had never thought I’d use a fire extinguisher the way I did in this game.
This use of items and finding items to use is what I will refer to as ‘puzzles’. I want to make sure I point out that there are a few traditional puzzles found in the game, but I simply could not think of a better way of explaining how the game requires you to think and act in order to make true progress. In fact, the game’s true story is hidden enough that the developers added a message that appears upon booting up the game that suggests players play the game several times to fully uncover the whole tale. I’m not sure if it’s due to this or the other way around, but the actual game is not very long and can be played from beginning to end in under an hour if you know where to go and what to do. Personally, I played the game several times through and reached the same ending every time, just in different ways each time. I can see myself going back and trying to figure it out further, but I can say I would suggest this game to anyone who enjoys horror or mysteries.
While Uncanny Valley may be on the very short side, it does have an interesting story that will tease many playthroughs out of patient gamers. Roaming and exploring the halls of the mysterious building, players can expect to feel uncomfortable and not even know why until they have solved several of the games obscure puzzles. While I didn’t find it nearly as scary as it could have been, I can definitely understand why gamers that are more prone to anxiety and knee jerk reactions would have a tough time getting to the bottom of Uncanny Valley’s story. This may be more of an afterthought, but I feel like I should mention it, The game does have a few ‘gorey’ moments, but these are still only gorey in 2D and with rather low detail, so I doubt the game will make many squeamish. If you don’t mind gore or feeling uncomfortable, Uncanny Valley just might be the next indie horror game you enjoy.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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