Let me tell you a story…
A Story About My Uncle began life as a humble university project. The developers, the newly formed Gone North Games, then brought the game to life and teamed up with Coffee Stain Studios, the goat guys, to bring the full game to Steam. I, for one, am quite glad they did.
A Story About My Uncle is a first-person platformer at its most basic, involving the player jumping, swinging and generally avoiding falling to their doom. But despite this making up the largest amount of the gameplay, there is something even more important in Gone North Games’ debut title – the story.
There are no prizes available for guessing that the story in the game revolves around an uncle. The uncle in question has gone missing and the player takes it upon himself to locate him. While this may sound uninteresting to begin with, the way that the story is told really builds on the immersion that the player can feel.
The game begins with your character settling his daughter to bed and being begged for an adventurous bedtime story. And so, the character begins the tale of his missing uncle from his youth and continues to narrate throughout the game, giving it a wonderfully engaging perspective as a tale being told to a young girl.
Uncle Fred was a bit of an adventurer and scientist, perfectly suited to a tale being told to a young child. But he had gone missing in this tale, and the protagonist begins, as you would, by searching his house. The uncle is nowhere to be found, but an interesting suit designed especially for the players character does turn up, which is quite handy as you quickly find yourself transported to a strange new world where life without this special suit would be very inconvenient.
The story does a wonderful job of getting the player involved in the main character, and the missing uncle. There is a genuine fear for the uncle, especially after meeting up with a strange alien race who seem as concerned as you are. One of the aliens, a young girl by the name of Maddie, helps the player out where she can and manages to bring yet more emotion to an already emotion-filled game. The entire narrative here really is something quite special.
But that is not to say that the gameplay and mechanics are any less special. The suit that the player has acquired will come in very useful when it comes to traversing the floating islands that seem to make up this new world. The suit allows the player to jump higher and farther than they would normally, and the handy plasma grapple hook device mounted in one of the gloves, which has limited consecutive uses, will see the player swinging and zipping between platforms. Later the player will even be able to boost jump for further distance and upgrade to include even more grapples between platforms.
These mechanics are incredibly tight and very well done. The game does increase in difficulty as it progresses, although there are very few moments of real threat to be found. Failing to make a jump and a handy checkpoint will ensure that the player will not have to wade through too much of the game again. Successfully making a jump, or a series of maneuvers, is incredibly satisfying. However, the lack of threat does leave the game feeling as though something is missing.
There are no real puzzles in the game either – it is purely about platforming skill and working out exactly what to do and when to do it to reach your objective. In many ways, this is quite refreshing, although maybe a little brain teasing would have been welcomed.
Matching the great gameplay and story are the visuals in A Story About My Uncle. The game is played from a first-person perspective, which has given the developers ample opportunity to show off glorious environments and make use of great colours and lighting. The levels are varied in their looks, each as interesting to explore as the last, and their designs are really something to see and enjoy.
Being on the PC, the player has the option to use a controller or the keyboard mouse combo. A Story About My Uncle is a rare game in that I would whole heartedly recommend using a gamepad entirely. Playing with the keyboard and mouse just made everything that bit more difficult.
A Story About My Uncle is an unusual game, but one that is well worth playing. The story is involving, the visuals are stunning and the gameplay is both challenging and satisfying. The lack of threat and the absence of puzzles may leave some players feeling unfulfilled, but it is very difficult not to like such a charming and charismatic game.