Monday, 16 January 2017

A Story About My Uncle

A Story About My Uncle
A Story About My Uncle is a non-violent, first person platform game that doesn't make me long for the ability to shoot things. This is no small achievement.

It's not that I'm against non-violent games, more that first-person platforming is often frustrating enough to make the most placid of players want to run off and set fire to things, just to relieve the tension the nineteenth time they misjudge the same jump. The great achievement of A Story About My Uncle is to never let you get that frustrated. You can always see what you need to do, even when it isn't easy, and your tool set for achieving your goals is simple enough that you never spend ages trying all the wrong things and flexible enough that you feel awesome.

The art of falling.
The game is framed as a bedtime story told by a father to his daughter, with narration being provided in a soft, accented paternal voice which really seems to have bothered a lot of people. He explains that he once went to look for his missing Uncle Fred, found a copy of his uncle's 'adventure suit' made for him, and got sucked through Fred's over-engineered garbage disposal system into a world of caverns and pools, island stacks and floating rocks, where a frog-like race of humanoids have created a community out of Fred's rubbish.

The player navigates this world using the adventure suit's power assisted jump, infinite ability to fall onto the ground (but not into water) and a grappling gauntlet. You leap between islands, and use the grapple more to accelerate and change direction than you do to drag yourself directly to another place. About an hour in, I've reached a pitch dark cave in the Chasms, where something large and scary is growling around and the mysterious outcast 'Strays' have left signs saying 'Beware' and 'Do Not Move When the Eye is Open,' so I'm not sure that everyone else in this game is as non-violent as I am.

The littlest Deep One.
The story itself is perhaps a little slight. I'm looking for my Uncle, who has been missing a few weeks, but appears to have been in the underground world far longer. The frog people want me to bring him back to them. It's not much, but given that the studio's last release was Goat Simulator it doesn't look too shabby. Currently I'm also carrying a frog-girl called Mady (short a,) which doesn't effect my mobility thanks to the suit, but provides chirpy commentary and translation of the Stray graffiti, plus the occasional hint such as pointing out that I can make some of the plants glow with my grapple; super useful out here in the dark.

So far, A Story About My Uncle is a fast, fun, intuitive platformer, and it's nice to play something a little calmer. I also prefer the narrator agreeing that it's getting late and maybe we could pick up tomorrow when I close a session to Wolfenstein sending me virtual white feathers because I want to sleep.