Uncanny Valley PC Review
The cancellation of Silent Hills, and the subsequent removal of P.T. from PSN (as well as making it ineligible for re-downloading, turning pre-installed PS4s into a hot commodity on eBay) remains the single biggest blow to Triple-A horror fans in quite some time, if not ever. While Konami continues to burn every bridge that linked them to console games, disappointed horror fans can at least take solace that new and exciting horror games continue to manifest in various places courtesy of Indie devs. There is also the possibility that Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro will take their abandoned ideas for Silent Hills and kickstart their own horror project free from Konami’s incompetence, but until then we must stop dreaming about the future and partake in the nightmares of the present day horror scene.
Uncanny Valley, the debut title from Cowardly Creations, is a game that very much borrows elements from Silent Hill, Twin Peaks, and other surreal stories of insanity. Players assume the role of Tom, who starts things off fleeing for his life from shadowy pursuers, then waking up from the apparent nightmare to begin his new job as a security guard at a mysterious facility. His only companions at his new job and residence are the overweight and overly cynical Buck and the soft-spoken yet friendly Eve, respectively. Other characters of various classes and corporeal existence come and go throughout the day, but the primary goal is to work each shift and shuffle on home to bed.
The first unique feature of Uncanny Valley is the most noticeable: the visuals. While 2D pixel art is becoming more and more common, particularly with Indie games, it’s still a welcome sight to see the age-old medium used to tell a mature story, such as last year’s Gods Will Be Watching or the 2012 cult hit Lone Survivor. What Uncanny Valley lacks in facial detail, it makes up for with expertly crafted animations that convey what Tom is feeling at all times, whether it be pain, fatigue or fear.
The second unique feature is what the game is missing, and that is the ability to fail in the traditional sense; there are no Game Overs or respawns, even when players fail to evade an inhuman pursuer. The days progress regardless of what action (or inaction) the player takes; whether Tom is completing his job as a security guard or lounging about in his apartment, once his internal clock ticks he’ll cease consciousness and drop to sleep regardless of where he is. Naturally, this results in multiple outcomes as well as multiple endings, which in turn results in multiple playthroughs where players can experiment as much as they want to see where their actions take them throughout the story. Or they could just look up an online guide and follow that instead.
Regardless of how players approach it, Uncanny Valley is an interesting idea that is mostly marred by its technical oversights. Small examples include being forced to turn on the flashlight every time players switch screens, a pitifully short stamina meter for sprinting that takes ages to recharge, and dialogue text that tends to be obscured or cut short due to scripted events. There are also numerous puzzles and situations where the solution is not always clear, and since time progresses regardless of whether or not you succeed, it can prove annoying having to start the game from the beginning because of one botched event.
In the end, Uncanny Valley brings an interesting premise and gameplay features that are plagued by arbitrary mechanics and technical limitations. With a bit more polish, Cowardly Creations’ next game may be the one to put the Indie studio on the map. Until then, give their first experiment a try once curiosity (or a Steam sale) puts you in the mood.