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A Story About My Uncle Review

High-Flying Pleasant Platforming
by Kyle Hilliard on Jun 03, 2014 at 11:55 AM
Reviewed on PC
Publisher Coffee Stain Publishing
Developer Gone North Games
Rating Not rated

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.

Explore a fantasy world with the help of leaping suit and grappling hook
Impressive landscapes and art direction, even inside of stifling caves
None of the music stands out as being particularly memorable, but the cues and swells accentuate the exploration nicely
Accuracy is required for many of the leaping puzzles and it works well. First-person platforming can be tricky in general, but I never blamed my perspective when I fell short
A charming story and world coupled with a fun leaping mechanic kept me eager to progress, even when the difficulty spiked near the end

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A Story About My Unclecover

A Story About My Uncle

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