A Story About My Uncle – Indie Game Review

 

Games like: Portal, Mirror’s Edge

TL;DR

Time played: 3 hrs

Developed by Gone North Games, a Story About My Uncle takes a ride into the sci-fi, unearths the secrets shrouded around an adventurous Uncle, the society that he created armed with a suit that grapples to basically everything. What starts as a simple bedtime story enters into a first-person exploration game of other worldly societies and the treasures they contain.

Oh, scientific drawings.

Oh, scientific drawings.

A young nephew searches the home of his Uncle that has been missing for some time. Sure, he’s known for going on grand adventures, but this one seems to be going on longer than expected with no letters home. Climbing the stairs to his Uncle’s laboratory, he discovers a hidden compartment that he had never seen before. Behind locked doors, you discover a strange suit that seems to be the perfect size for you. Dawning the suit, another hidden compartment opens to another set of stairs. At the top is a computer connected to an interesting platform on the floor that claims to be used for disposing of trash. Curious, you press the correct keys on the computer, activate the platform, and are jettisoned into the sky transporting you to a strange new world. From here, you find artifacts left from your Uncle and take the journey upon yourself to find him and bring him back home.

A glorious world to lose yourself in.

A glorious world to lose yourself in.

As a first-person game, a Story About My Uncle does have complete controller support. The analog sticks will give the chance to look and move around the world. Your main grappling system is controlled by the right trigger provided you find a spot to grapple to. The A button will give a jump and once you’ve collected the rocket boots, pressing A again while in air will give you a boost in which ever direction you are looking in. Holding the right bumper for a few seconds will give you much higher jump boost than your traditional jump. Using all of these moves in tandem (the high jump, the grapple, the rocket boots) will be needed in the later levels to get you to certain platforms or to save your ass from a missing grapple shot before falling to your death.

Grappling to moving rocks change up the difficulty of moving about.

Grappling to moving rocks change up the difficulty of moving about.

Being equipped with an interesting mode of transportation: the grappling beam you’ll attach yourself to different elements spread throughout the world and swing yourself to another platform to traverse. Not every bit around you is grapple capable but a large majority is. It gives you options on how to continue through the level and gives you a sense of an open world of sorts. Grappling to things gives off a heat signature of a strange symbol. If you die from a misstep, this symbol will continue to be there so that you can learn from your mistakes. There are also symbols present before you arrive which indicates that your Uncle has also moved through these worlds. Keeping your grappling skills as close to his as possible is typically the best strategy in safe travel.

These symbols will be left after you grapple about the world.

These symbols will be left after you grapple about the world.

You’ll start in the caverns of wonderful oddities. Floating islands, beautiful skies full of stars, and alien crystals line the walk ways. The game starts you off slow, grappling to large platforms at a small distance to give you a chance to feel the controls. Then will slowly start to ramp up the difficulty with moving rocks that require you to grapple twice to continue. Keeping in mind that there is more than one way to move about, some areas do require you to follow a dedicated path of obstacles. After a while, the caverns give off a feeling that they are closing in around you, loneliness sets in, and you are desperate for contact of any kind. Suddenly, you see lights up ahead. Moving towards them, you come across an entire society that lives down here. And they are friendly (well most of them) and they speak English.

Maddie definitely is a lone wolf among her clan and is looking for a way out.

Maddie definitely is a lone wolf among her clan and is looking for a way out.

From here the story changes from the location and health of your Uncle to the vast world of strange tadpole people. You’ll meet Maddie, a rambunctious young individual of the tribe you uncover knows your Uncle more entirely than the others. She speaks about him in a fatherly fashion and shares your worry of his whereabouts. Greeted by the elder of the village, you are given passage to the underdark where a different tribe of species once inhabited. You and Maddie take forward (with her holding onto your back) and you make your way into unknown territories very few have ventured.

These crystals have the ability to recharge your grappling hook.

These crystals have the ability to recharge your grappling hook.

There are zero violent acts in a Story About My Uncle. There aren’t any enemies or bosses and the only creature I could even call a “boss” is the one-eyed snake that will blow you off the platforms if it catches you moving around. All of these, the fall deaths included, just result in restarting at the last checkpoint. The main challenge comes from just moving around a physical space much like in Portal or Mirror’s Edge. Except you move at your own pace; no time clock or rush to get anywhere. It’s an interesting take interaction fiction. Keeping in mind that the game is being told through a bedtime story, the narrator and his daughter will talk over the story once it gets to a bit of plot point. This gives off a sense of the Princess Bride for those who are familiar with that movie. It’s a nice change to the “fast paced, everything is trying to kill you, better hurry up or you’ll die of being out of time” type of games we are use to today.

The only "boss" I could tell from the game. He doesn't like things that move.

The only “boss” I could tell from the game. He doesn’t like things that move.

Built on the Unity engine, a Story About My Uncle is absolutely gorgeous. Smooth textures, interesting floating islands, and brilliant sunrises makes the world feel lived in and real. There’s little to no music except when the action presents itself. Most of what you’ll hear is just the ambient sounds of walking around, the power being put off from your grappling beam, or whispers from a conversation that’s being held thirty feet away. The tone and atmosphere complete the total package that I couldn’t think of what should be changed or altered to make the experience better. It feels total in its endeavors.

Everything is moving!

Everything is moving!

A Story of My Uncle will only take a few hours to complete even with the amount of falls you’ll take trying to make your way through. The game does have some hefty PC requirements to run as smooth as it deserves. There are quite a few options to make adjustments and even though I don’t have the best PC rig around, I had to drop practically every setting to get 20 frames a second. It wasn’t so bad that it stopped me from exploring and enjoying the game, but I would have thought better of it if I could have gotten it to run at the level the developers intended it to be.

This is me falling.

This is me falling.

A Story About My Uncle is a first-person exploration story that unearths the secret life of a young man’s Uncle as he transverses a strange new dimension. Equipped with a suit and the ability to grapple to practically anything, a Story About My Uncle allows you to take your time and experience a well crafted world, its majesties, and challenging adventuring gameplay that is a nice touch to the genre.

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