Uncanny Valley is an Indie, side-scrolling survival horror game from Cowardly Creations. They are a small, college based development team in Slovenia and this was their very first game. Also, it’s worth noting that the game was partially funded via an Indiegogo campaign before it was greenlit and released on Steam in 2015.
In the game, you play as a newly employed security guard called Tom. He’s in charge of the night shift, while his lazy partner Buck is in charge of the day shift. Nights are long, so Tom starts exploring the facility and finds things he shouldn’t. At the same time, Tom has frightening nightmares that lead him to question his own sanity.
Uncanny Valley has a pixelated art style. In the game there is a sort of consequence system. Certain actions or the failing of those actions lead to slight deviations in the direction or conclusion of the narrative.
Uncanny Valley is one of those Indie games that has a fairly decent reputation. Therefore, it’s almost never cheap. Unfortunately, this is one of those times when the game is extremely overpriced based on what it is offering. This is a survival horror game in the loosest terms possible, it is not scary. However, I will admit that its soundtrack & sound effects are surprisingly effective in creating a creepy atmosphere. Still, the pixelated style just doesn’t work in survival horror. I find it very difficult to be feel intimidated by some blurred textures. I have nothing against the art style itself, it just doesn’t work in this genre.
Controlling Tom is often a clunky experience. Also, the inventory system is unnecessarily cumbersome. Uncanny Valley’s biggest misstep is its lack of things to actually do. The setup of patrolling a huge building alone is intriguing. However, all you do is patrol the floors and nothing ever happens. Sure, there is an abundance of email reading to do but it’s boring. You can collect creepy tapes and listen to those but you likely won’t feel invested either way. Your shift lasts 6 real time minutes and then that’s it.
Overall, I found it terribly difficult to distinguish what I was supposed to be doing. As you progress, there are certain things you can do that change the direction of the narrative. However, most if not all of these are ridiculously specific. How anyone could figure out how to succeed without a guide is beyond me. Thankfully, the checkpoint system is forgiving. It’s a game that asks you to experiment which is ironic because the game itself feels like an experiment from a team making their first game.
To experience everything Uncanny Valley has to offer you’ll need to play through it multiple times. This hurts the game further as you must get through the stale opening stages over and over. The tension that existed is dead and gone by that point. In the final third of the game, Uncanny Valley improves. Still, it’s often frustrating and confusing.
Uncanny Valley has some good ideas but they are executed poorly. The story is about as incoherent as you can imagine. Still, if you’re willing and curious enough there is a decent mystery hidden within. That is, if you can wrap your head around any of it. Unfortunately, the game ends up feeling like an overpriced disappointment.