The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
A Story About My Uncle is a strange name, but it is an appropriate and perfectly descriptive one. In the game, players tell a story to their daughter about the time they followed their adventurous uncle Fred into a mysterious world. This whimsical setup frames the action, which focuses on a clever grappling hook mechanic that allows players to fling themselves between platforms over great distances.
As in most platformers, your progression through the linear adventure relies on jumping around. The difference here is the first-person perspective, which adds a challenge since you can’t see your body. Getting ground under your feet is rarely a problem; the gaps are designed and spaced in such a way that you generally jump the perfect distance. The challenge comes from propelling yourself correctly with the grappling hook. You can only use the hook so many times before touching the ground for a recharge, so it’s more about using the device than placing your feet. Propelling yourself from the first-person perspective is consistently breathtaking; it evokes the same chest-tightening feeling found in games like Mirror’s Edge as you soar through the air using the grappling hook to pull yourself towards your destination.
You won’t battle – or even see – any enemies, save for one stealth section where you must avoid a giant cyclops-snake who takes frequent naps and doesn’t like guests. The challenge comes from traversal, which plays out like a puzzle. Figuring out how to get from point a to b is the challenge, and the lack of enemies makes it a calm, enjoyable experience.
Your grappling hook can attach to any surface (until the final puzzles). The route through each location is marked with symbols left behind by your uncle, but there is room for creativity with the grappling hook’s ability to attach to any surface. There is a correct path to the end, but skilled players will be able find novel ways of progression, and it makes me excited to see what talented speed-runners will be able to pull off.
The difficulty balance is generally consistent. Checkpoints are well-spaced and reloads are quick, so falling to your death is not too bad. Traversal requires pinpoint accuracy, as your window to deploy your grappling hook is usually very small. In the closing moments, a difficulty spike worse than any of recent memory appears. I grew so frustrated I wondered if I could even finish. I’m generally quiet in the office, not letting my frustrations get the best of me, but I found myself shouting and throwing my mouse aside, which is especially surprising considering the rest of the game is a tranquil, soaring experience.
The plot is light-hearted and friendly, seemingly targeting a younger audience. It’s a charming story with a well-realized world and heartfelt payoff worth pursuing. However, this child-like approach is at odds with the difficulty late in game, leaving the intent confused.
A Story About My Uncle is a heartfelt game with a mechanic I already miss after watching the credits roll. Leaping high into the air and using the grappling hook are simple, easy-to-understand tools that would be fun even without the alluring world and story accompanying it. It’s a short experience, clocking in at only a few hours, but it’s an adventure I enjoyed taking.
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