A Story About My Uncle (PC) Review

By Thomas Wrobel 11.05.2015

Review for A Story About My Uncle on PC

A Story About My Uncle is the debut game from Swedish developer Gone North Games. It's an attractive, non-violent title featuring beautiful environments, solid voice acting, and a charming sci-fi fairytale. However, it's also a first-person platformer with tricky jumps, deadly falls, and some truly evil obstacles. Join Cubed3 to find out if the pull of the title's wonderful atmosphere is enough to overcome the repulsion of leaping about in a first-person viewpoint.

Platforming in first-person games isn't widely accepted as being a good idea. Normally, characters legs are seen in relation to the environment, and this helps estimate the height needed to land at and, thus, how much speed and force to put into the jump. In a first-person title, however, the legs of the character can't be seen - in fact, they tend not to even exist, and estimating the position of legs that don't exist can be tricky.

Making a whole game, then, around first-person platforming is risky, and A Story About My Uncle, technically, is exactly that sort of game. It is all about planning the route, running, taking a huge leap, and praying the character is going to land on that little bit of rock that separates victory from doom… but it's not just about that. While the need to run, jump...and land is a constant, while in midair there is also a grapple beam that can be used, and this is where things get a lot more entertaining.

Screenshot for A Story About My Uncle on PC

The grapple beam pulls players towards any surface, sort of like a mix between a hookshot from the Zelda series and a Ninja-rope from Worms. The use of the beam is limited, so planning the route carefully is imperative, as is rationing its use till the next landing spot where it can recharged. The control of grappling requires some getting used to as the speed of the grapple, combined with the bottomless pits in most areas, can make proceedings pretty unforgiving. One point that is quickly learnt, for example, is accelerating full speed towards a solid rock face is generally a pretty bad idea.

Instead, it is demanded that releasing the grapple at the right time is learned so that coasting through the air can commence until another rock face is in range. When the beam is used successfully, it can be quite satisfying, especially when falling to oblivion is deftly avoided by grappling the ground split-seconds before overshooting it. Much of the joy comes from these landings, in fact - safely arriving after a long, daring series of mid-air stunts. It's not the only joy, however, as the mechanics and gameplay are only a small aspect of the whole package. A Story About My Uncle is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, a story.

Screenshot for A Story About My Uncle on PC

The tale is told with constant well acted narration, and rather than cut-scenes, specific areas designed to be slowly looked around as play goes on are featured. In these "Story Areas," normal abilities such as the grapple beam stop working and, instead, a zoom ability is added to the controls, allowing details to be read or looked at. This works really well, being reminiscent of some "non-games" like Gone Home or Dear Esther, letting the details of notes, sketches, or other set dressings in the environment be taken in. These pauses flesh out the story and characters in a very natural way, helping build a picture of the world and characters without forcing it upon people.

The game world itself is a high point, too, whether exploring the uncle's house at the start or swinging though vast Metroid-like caverns - they are gorgeous and a credit to the artist. The environments go to unexpected places, presenting graphics that are better than merely good: they are imaginative and rich with atmosphere. These stages are also well designed from a gameplay point of view, too, with the path ahead almost always clear, despite still looking natural and not explicitly designed for the player's benefit. There is one exception to this, however, and that's the lighting can be quite poor in places. While atmospheric, the low lighting of some cave sections can be impractical, and turning the gamma up might be needed to find the path ahead.

Screenshot for A Story About My Uncle on PC

A Story About My Uncle is a fairly short escapade, with just three overall environments to explore. However, it also doesn't need to be much longer, and does provide enough value for the asking price of just $12.99 / £9.99. For those that want more, though, there are unlockable features. Finding scientific instruments hidden over the landscape will help unlock these little extras. On top of that, there are Time Trial levels and a whole list of rather hard Steam Achievements, meaning Gone North Games has pretty much packed everything it could into the concept.

Overall, the team's debut is a solid and satisfying experience, despite its risky core design choice. It's a game that should appeal to people that love exploring strange environments in other worlds, as well as narrated storytelling. As such, it is a fantastic start for new developer, and hopefully a sign of bigger and better things to come.

Screenshot for A Story About My Uncle on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

A Story About My Uncle makes some bold design choices, but pulls them off well. While its jumping and grappling mechanics can be a challenge, they can also be highly rewarding, and frequent save points make it easy to dive back in and have another go whenever failure happens. Meanwhile, great atmosphere and environment design pulls gamers through the charming little story. In fact, it's probably a good title to go into knowing very little, as much of the fun is discovering where it goes. Gone North Games is certainly a company to watch as it should be proud of what has been accomplished here.

Developer

Gone North Games

Publisher

Coffee Stain

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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