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Some Words for A Story About My Uncle

IndieMonth | 53d ago
User blog

By Kyle

“Have you ever lost a friend you care about? I have...”

As you anticipate the regaling of our adult hero's story, told through a bodiless narration to a young listener, you wander through an empty house, spiritually transported back through time to your days as a fledgling. An unknown force, sparked by wide-eyed wonder, prods you forward through the recesses of the abode, a seemingly normal household that becomes less normal as you take each step. Growing more and more disheveled with each passing moment, your young protagonist finds his missing uncle's laboratory with experiments beyond most human comprehension. He also finds something more, perhaps something for him—a suit that fits him too snugly that will aid him on a wild adventure in a land that few know of and fewer have ever seen.

“He chased his dreams to faraway worlds...”

In the attic, we find something akin to a launcher combined with a teleporter combined with strewn trash. Taking a small step forward, we are propelled to a place where not even our wildest dreams could take us. Did your uncle come this way? Lush greenery and floating islands populate this strange enchanted land. It's not normal here—it's new, it's previously unseen, it's terrifying. There is something that pulls you forward, however, as you muster the gumption and take your first step in this unfamiliar territory. Slowly, as you move forward, this place does not feel so unnatural—almost like a second home, but far more irrational than your time on Earth. Wait. Are you still on Earth? What is this place exactly? Who knows? It does not really matter now, as things are topsy-turvy anyway and your only choice is to progress and seek out your missing family member.



It is here where A Story About My Uncle shows its colors and separates itself vastly from story-driven games that have permeated our culture recently. Far and removed from titles like Gone Home and Dear Esther, titles that have jokingly been called “walking simulators” where your main goal is to walk from the beginning of the story to the end, A Story About My Uncle takes the time to forge a relationship between its game mechanics and its story, building a foundational narrative that drives you to explore not only within the confines of your straight shot from beginning to end, but to manage different routes that may not have been so apparent from the beginning.

“And somehow...I ended up in one of them...”

The suit you grabbed back there was not just a fashion statement left to you by your uncle before you, but instead allows you all the tools to take advantage of this brand new environment. Your adolescent legs could only take you so far before, but augmented by your cool, new digs, jumping and running become a breeze. In fact, you even have the ability to jump higher than ever before to new heights that basketball stars would be incredibly envious of. Your tireless legs will take you further than ever before, and combining the two will take you to places you could not have imagined.



Your legs are not your only mode of transportation, of course, because jumping from floating island to an orbiting rock is dangerous work for a young man. No, you also have a grappling tether at your disposal to take yourself up, bring yourself down, cross wide chasms of nothingness—whatever your heart desires, your newfound ability will take you there. Combining all three of your powerful abilities, you will set proverbial sale into this strange land to find out exactly where your uncle is.

“Suddenly, I found myself in a strangely beautiful place. I could soar through the air...”

There is something to be said about how A Story About My Uncle handles the relationship between creating a non-violent platforming action game and interweaving it with a thoughtful narrative in a way that keeps players engaged in one or the other or both. At its heart, A Story About My Uncle is a two-hour game if you play it strictly like a game; jumping from one rock to another all while planning to grapple to yet another to reach your next destination is thrilling and there's a true sense of speed involved as you soar through the air making split-second decisions about your next move lest you find yourself in the suffocating waters below (from where you will be generously respawned from a nearby checkpoint. Those who take the game to its limits, pursuing its delicately-crafted world, will find that the game offers somewhere up to five or six hours of play. Each section has been preciously painted with intricate scenery and new ways to approach and peruse the environments with your laser-like tether. Explore. Be curious. All those grapple points are for you.



This brings us to a point that gives you a tickle in your tummy. As you continue on your journey, you notice that your uncle, despite his absence, left you little marks of where his own suit had come. See, as you move, your grappling points leave a mark and there are instances where you will see them happen very closely to or even overlap with those left by your uncle. It gives you a strange sensation of following in his footsteps, becoming more like him. Conversely, you can also carve your own path in the game by finding new ways to traverse the areas, giving you another sense of growth, perhaps like your uncle, but much different in execution. Just one of the small touches that crafts a narrative without saying a word.

“Saw things and met beings you couldn't imagine...”

My, and we haven't even gotten to the deeper parts of the game. There is not much to say in regards to characters outside of the narrator without giving much away, but there are strange things afoot in this even stranger land. Narrator aside, the voice acting feels a little weak with other characters you encounter, and your silent protagonist serves more as a vehicle of progression. The quiet is quite welcome, however, as a fully-voiced character would have merited cries of joy as you soar through the air and nonsense filler talk. No, silence is certainly better in this situation.



There is certainly something peaceful about soaring through the air in each of these beautiful locales that resonates from something of this Earth, but not-quite-of-this-Earth. Practically everything is interesting to look at, with an unsettling sense of familiarity at every point. Such a beautiful game that rarely fails to please visually.

“I can't shake the feeling that this place is still out there...Waiting to be found once again...”

Potentially the biggest letdown of the game is that some sections were deliberately created for you to fail multiple times. Though the checkpoint system is generous, there are a few instances that will have you clawing at your keyboard or controller, wishing there was an easier way to skip past, especially for those more concerned about the narrative of the title and less about finding a challenge. There is great personal reward for persevering and a fantastic sense of accomplishment to accompany.

A Story About My Uncle is a prime example of how to delicately marry and balance the important aspects of actual play. Though it has some slow points in play and strange delivery in character, Gone North Games have offered us something that other studios should be envious of—a first title that not only manages to enrapture you with its fast and fluid play, but keeps you interested in learning more about the direction of the story. Absolutely something to be proud of, and certainly not a title to overlook.

“This...is a story about my uncle.”

Day 1 | Gone North Games

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rambi80  +   53d ago
i think a lot of the anger directed to "walking simulator" occurs when people enter with a certain set of expectations that are not met.

Maybe a genre category like "Digital Novel" or something like that can avoid SOME of the backlash
Nice review/preview though
christian hour  +   53d ago
I think Digital Novel is a much more accurate genre term for these types of games but it does seem like that would also scare off a lot of gamers that might very well enjoy these kinds of interactive stories.

Personally I feel there is a lot of ignorance coming from the gaming community towards indie titles, especially ones that are trying to share a deep, personal and though provoking story.

Some of my friends are your typical "hardcore" gamer, yearly fifa, yearly cod etc. Every month I hear them complain about all these "Mickey Mouse games coming out on ps4". I roll my eyes. Sadly they can't see me do that over headsets. It's just plain ignorance that because it doesnt look like a big michael bay explosion at all times, it's a "mickey mouse" game. Completely dismisses the hard work a small team put in to these games.

Point being, I know if these guys saw a game listed as "Digital Novel" they'd avoid it like the plague. And I hold on to the belief that someday they'll pick up an indie title that piques their interest and it will open their eyes to a world of gaming they used to dismiss outright, I feel Digital Novel would make this hypothetical scenario a lot less likely.

I dunno what to call em really, I was never a fan of labelling or genre, I tend to judge everything on its own merits. I make music myself, and I am terrified of the idea of someone labelling it. Most people might call it pop, some would call it folk, personally I have a lot of game music and movie score inspirations so I feel it leans more towards that side of things, but I still wouldn't class my music in a genre, and I wouldnt want someone else to do it for me. It speaks for itself I think.

And I think that's what these types of games should do. Let them speak for themselves. Anyone that passes them off as a "walkign simulator" isn't playing games for the same reason as me, and that's their loss I guess.

Not sure where I was going with this one, kinda went off the beaten track there. But "Digital Novel" is definitely closer to the mark, but still I don't feel it really nails it.

This game has some very interesting platforming mechanics that seem to tie in to the narrative being told, which I think is key to nailing a good video game story. It's my belief that if the game mechanics don't fit the story then it breaks the immersion. E.g an open world game where you're the good guy fighting for your beliefs, but just before that cutscene where you save yr friend or whatever, you spent the last hour murdering civilians.

Either way this game has a Novel Platform (please excuse the play on words) and I look forward to getting my hands on it in the future :)
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Disagree  +   52d ago
are you secretly one of the developers? #Kappa
christian hour  +   52d ago
@disagree

I wish I was, then I wouldn't have to comment in the hopes to get a free copy :P

I'm a tv and film grad and an avid gamer obsessed in every aspect of game dsign and the industry, so I tend to waffle a lot and get all artsy fartsy on people :)

Sadly I have nothign to do with the gaming industry... yet ;)
FogKnight22  +   53d ago
Interesting... I didn't mind "walking simulators" from games like Gone Home because they usually have intriguing narrative, and this apparently takes the cake from what I have read in here and the interview.

It also looks fun grappling and exploring around in the fictional world so I will check more about ASAMU.
randomass171  +   50d ago
I agree. But I feel that to justify the concept of calling them a "video game" there should be a level of interactivity. This is where Gone Home succeeds where Dear Esther did not. Dear Esther didn't have the player do much of anything whereas Gone Home had you do something. You could analyze objects at your leisure and even if it was linear, the narrative would only really push forward if the player willed it. Dear Esther had nothing to find or discover aside from its ending.
scarecrow7x  +   53d ago
Very interesting read. This game looks amazing, not everyone likes these style of games but I for one really enjoy them.

Sometimes it is nice to leave reality for a while and fade into a charming dream world like this one.
RexDD  +   53d ago
Indies should just keep doing wha they do. It's refreshing to see something different like this every once in a while
waltyftm  +   52d ago
Well said, stops the market from going stale and opens up exciting new ideas.
Derekvinyard13  +   53d ago
Looks dam good
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dieger  +   53d ago
Looks great and has charm to boot time to add another game to my list :P
PrimeGrime  +   53d ago
Looks interesting.
Robochobo  +   53d ago
This could either be really good or really boring. Would like to hear more about this in the near future.
Neo43224  +   53d ago
Indies have interesting games and are fun to play.
Stopher92  +   53d ago
I want it on PS4!!
Sarobi  +   53d ago
Same
Alex_Boro  +   53d ago
Looks cool!
wingman32x  +   53d ago
This looks neat. It seems like it has a good atmosphere going. It'll be interesting to see it develop.
CrimsonAzure  +   53d ago
I'll be keeping my eye on this one.
MrBug  +   53d ago
Open console
Write noclip
YodaCracker  +   53d ago
I really dig the art style.
Sniper_amer  +   53d ago
the most important aspect about any game for me is the story, i just hope this one is good!
Anet13  +   53d ago
I like how most Indie games focus their attention on the games' visuals and also in how they tell the story, for example some use either few or no words to tell a story and still manage to grab the gamer's attention. It's also really nice how most are not too violent(shooters) since that is something very common these days,not that I hate them( pff most of my games are shooters), but right now I am looking for a calm game, you know just to relax haha
WillGuitarGuy  +   53d ago
I don't know where the "walking simulator" neagative tone for Dear Esther comes from. I enjoyed the experience and visuals from start to finish.
nagalaga31  +   53d ago
I like the art style, but I don't like one thing. And that's that the grass is moss-like on the ground (mogras lol). It's not spiked up like real grass should be. But I guess if GTA V (PS3, XBOX360) could afford to do it, then you guys should be fine too.
Budobear  +   53d ago
I've not heard of Gone North games before, this looks very interesting.
Bitsnark  +   53d ago
Looking forward to seeing more on this!
WeAreLegion  +   53d ago
If you guys haven't tried it yet, I highly recommend it. One of the best indies in a long time.
dictionary  +   53d ago
Really looking into this!
DawginTow1  +   53d ago
Is this game kinda like Myst? Oldie-but-goodie
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LightDiego  +   53d ago
The narrative looks great, can't wait to check it.
biddern1  +   53d ago
I love these kinds of games. Awesome
MightyNoX  +   53d ago
--Potentially the biggest letdown of the game is that some sections were deliberately created for you to fail multiple times.--

So what you're saying is that this is the 'Dark Souls' of Indie games. I can work with that.
randomass171  +   50d ago
I can live with that. There are boss battles in SNES games that you cannot win. One of the earliest Mega Man X boss battles for example.
Someone uncle seems to have taken the scenic route.
alfthepeach  +   53d ago
Looks like an extremely interesting, artful game to play.
Emilio_Estevez  +   53d ago
Such an interesting combination of styles and mechanics!
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