Uncanny Valley (PlayStation 4) Review

By Thom Compton 07.02.2017 1

Review for Uncanny Valley on PlayStation 4

To explain the basic ideas at play in Uncanny Valley is to break down what makes a game fundamentally interactive. It's not enough to explain that Cowardly Creations' debut game is a pixelated romp into psychological horror, and that it breaks down the very design of both survival horror and decision-based gaming in new in profound ways. One must ask some fundamentally tough questions. Is there any experience like this? No, there is not. Does it meld various influences together into something distinct? Absolutely. Is that all a good thing? Well, that might be the hardest question of all.

Uncanny Valley is a pixelated adventure title that mixes horror and a bit of puzzle solving into the fray. On this level, it doesn't sound particularly unique. It doesn't get better when you guide the protagonist, Tom, to a mountain facility where he has inexplicably been hired as a security guard. He will explore this facility during his shift, reading emails, finding audio tapes, and generally being sleepy.

One of the most important facets of Uncanny Valley is that it's meant to be played multiple times. Unfortunately, every time you start again, you have to sit through the same opening moments, which range from five to twenty minutes, depending on how much you explore. It's a burden trekking through the same stuff over and over just to try to get a different ending. Make no mistake, that's the real prize. Getting to know any of the other people in the apartment building you live in is hardly the draw, since Tom spends so much time by himself. It would be nice if there was some chapter select, so you wouldn't have to start from scratch every time, but it makes sense in the context of the game.

Screenshot for Uncanny Valley on PlayStation 4

Uncanny Valley isn't particularly long, which is fine. It means you can re-tread quickly, and do a better job getting one of the other endings. The ultimate question, though, is how scary is it? The answer is, unfortunately, not very scary at all.

The opening moments of the first playthrough are very intense. Shadowy figures bellow down, while loud, ominous music plays. It's fantastic, and short lived. Once at the facility, the game employs mostly rustling noises and cheap tricks (power outage, for instance) to keep the player engaged. What this means is that subsequent playthroughs are much, much less terrifying, and are often down right dull, since it can be guessed where a lot of the frights are coming from.

Screenshot for Uncanny Valley on PlayStation 4

Of course, it might just be boring if the controls weren't so off-putting. R1 allows for the advancement of text and picking up items, while X allows one to interact with different items. That's alright, because the distinction between the two is often fine, meaning the player should be able to do both separately without worrying about the other one happening. The off-putting part is actually interacting with the game.

Climbing into elevators is very important, and different floors will be required to be selected. Navigating the panel often requires hitting the arrow buttons several times before they select anything. Running is also cumbersome, as an invisible stamina bar counts down the seconds until continuing to lumber along. It makes sense when escaping a foe, but when just heading back to your apartment, it's just annoying. The coolest feature is that if enemies injure Tom, he will respond accordingly, being slower later in the game due to his injuries.

Screenshot for Uncanny Valley on PlayStation 4

The most bothersome feature, though, is the time. Players work shifts as a security guard, which include walking around the building and finding collectibles, unless there is a story event to partake in. Once the end of the shift is reached, you can go back to your apartment, or continue working until you pass out. The results seem to be the same, but the reason this is annoying is that passing out can often interrupt something else you're doing. Uncanny Valley's biggest problem is it doesn't care if you're exploring, or taking in the beautiful pixel art. It's time to move on, like an overzealous tour guide.

That pixel art, though, is perfect. The blank canvases of the faces allow the player to project themselves on the character. This is juxtaposed by the highly-detailed trees and snowy mountains, and Uncanny Valley is, on just the pixel art alone, worth purchasing. While the story and gameplay leave a lot to be desired, this is some of the prettiest pixel art out there. Detailed enough to be pretty, but not too detailed to trap your imagination.

Screenshot for Uncanny Valley on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Uncanny Valley is going to catch some players' eyes, and leave a lot of others wondering if they missed something. The painful truth is that they didn't. The game is often too counterproductive to be enjoyed, as it manages to tackle every good idea with a bad one. At first, it feels like Silent Hill, then the dread sets in that it might just be the parts people were indifferent to, or didn't like. Any survival horror fan should check it out, but don't expect anything more than a game with a lot of potential that never quite realises it.

Developer

Cowardly Creations

Publisher

Digerati Distribution

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

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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poor man's lone survivor

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