Title: Uncanny Valley
Platform: PS4, PS Vita, Xbox One (reviewed), Steam
Developer: Cowardly Creations
Release Date: Out now
Price: £12/$12 (PS4 and PS Vita) £10/$12 (Xbox One)
TL;DR: A psychological horror game that feels more like an anthology than a singular game.
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Dreams are a powerful thing – though the manifestations of our conscious and subconscious fears can make the sanctuary of sleep a dark and uneasy place. This is something that Cowardly Creation’s Uncanny Valley does very well. You play as a new security guard named Tom, who suffers from night terrors. If there was one thing in this game that stood out for me, it was the environment the player sees when Tom sleeps – the game falls short in many other places – but this is not one of them.
Uncanny Valley sells itself as a “psychological” horror game and is able to achieve part of this hybrid well in places. The intermittent dream sequences that you play through offer some dark insight into whatever past Tom is trying to get away from. Hordes of shadowed figures attack you, scenery falls away, leaving you in a dark abyss, and abominations haunt the scenery within Tom’s night terrors. The atmosphere and unsettling images revealed are certainly the highlight of this game, working to create an eerie surrealism whilst capturing the disjointed nature of dreams in a highly satisfying manner.
However, the subconscious is only one aspect of the game, and whilst it is an aspect that is well realised, the surrounding features of the game – unfortunately – fail to reach the same standard of uneasiness. The primary story thread follows Tom as you uncover what leads him to the isolated snow-swept compound in which he acts as a security guard, and slowly uncovers the mystery of the game. Whilst there is a story to unravel, the game seems disjointed and lacking any direction. The idealist in me would suggest that this lapse of sequence and direction is done to reflect the fractured nature of dreams, but it does little to make the experience any less baffling.
You begin to uncover the mystery of the game through emails, video tapes, and cassette tapes that are littered around the abandoned facility you patrol in the dead of night. In theory, this should be quite simple to begin uncovering the plot of Uncanny Valley, except each piece of evidence you come across doesn’t really lead anywhere. Partly because you may not find them in a sequential order – which is not really an issue – and partly because I couldn’t find any of the equipment needed to view the videos and cassettes until the very end of my initial playthrough.
This inability to buy into the plot
The most direction you will receive in the game are vague objectives like “befriend Eve” which provides something close to an entry point for the game, but not enough to deliver an understanding of where to go afterward.
More than anything, the fractured nature of the game seems like a host of late changes more than anything else. It seems that the game would have been far more enjoyable if there were a singular focus and environment; something along the lines of playing through Tom’s night terrors and figuring out what caused him to leave town in such a hurry. I understand why the developers decided to expand the game’s plot, though on this occasion it seems that less would have been better.
The dialogue in the game leaves a lot to be desired as well, with speech seeming to be sourced from a bad South Park episode. Whilst it’s not unbearable it’s certainly one of the weakest aspects of the game and rarely seems to capture the tone and atmosphere that the music and design work hard to sustain.
Overall, Uncanny Valley seems to be a game that has a lot of potential, and in places, that potential is realised. However, the game seems too disjointed to really be enjoyable. The game recommends that you go through multiple playthroughs to get a well-rounded experience; I found it difficult to pick the controller up again after my initial completion of the game, and after my third playthrough – unfortunately – not much has changed. I would suggest that you do play through the game at least three times to get a clear idea of what the game offers, though.
- The dream sequences offer a genuinely creepy surrealism
- Some of the artwork in the game is very well done
- For those who click with the game, there is a huge re-playability factor
- A lack of direction in the game means that you find it hard to continue
- The dialogue seems unrelated to the atmosphere of the game
- The way you use items is fiddly and takes too long to get an item out
The game is rated 18+ in the UK and “M” for Mature in the US. Strong language, gore and violence, and adult themes are present throughout the game.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by Digerati