After Ethan Carter last week, I was still itching for another first-person narrative game. I had two options sitting in my Steam library: Gone Home and A Story About My Uncle. I ended up choosing A Story About My Uncle simply because I knew the game involved some reflex-based gameplay, and while Ethan was super tense and fantastic, it wasn’t a traditionally “fun” game. Ethan involved lots of walking, looking, reading, and thinking.
I wanted to do crazy things in this week’s game. Turns out, I chose wisely: A Story About My Uncle not only told me an intriguing story, it let me feel like a super hero.
A retail copy of the game was provided to me by the developer, Gone North Games. I have previously written about A Story About My Uncle on Gamezebo.
Just from the screenshots and the snippet of trailer footage that I skimmed through, I knew A Story About My Uncle involved running, leaping, soaring, and all the trappings of a first-person platformer, but there was not a weapon in sight, nor were there any blatant puzzles, —which was fine by me.
A Story About My Uncle equips players with a grappling laser and a pair of rocket boots. Through the strategic placement of glowing runes the player is directed throughout each level. Hardly any direction is necessary though, as the game is completely linear. A path may deviate for the occasional collectable object, but it’s never any significant out-of-the-way traveling.
Traveling, as linear as it is, is the star of the game.
Thanks to your uncle’s gear, players swing from glowing rune to glowing rune like Spider-Man, complete eye-wateringly explosive dash-jumps across wide chasms, and even squeeze an extra bit of distance out of jumps thanks to the rocket-boots that you get about halfway through the game. Moving about in A Story About My Uncle is a very fun and fluid experience. When I would flawlessly complete a particular platforming section (which honestly took two or three tries) I really felt like the gear was a natural extension of my character, in much the same way that the gravity-gun in Half-Life 2 felt.
There were a few portions near the end of the game where it was difficult to ascertain where I was supposed to go. For example, one area presented me with a dead end. After some backtracking I slipped off the edge and fell, only to realize that the level continued on beneath that platform’s overlap. The only way to know that the concealed area was there would be to do (what would essentially appear as) a suicide jump down, and look up as you fall.
Little hiccups like that interrupted the otherwise flawless flow of the game.
The narrative of the game originates in a father telling his daughter a bed-time story about the time he went to find his missing uncle, who happens to be a crazy, but endearing, scientist. Gone North Games cleverly integrated that narrative into the gameplay the player experiences by utilizing a mixed third-person limited and first-person perspectives.
For example, when interacting with Maddie, a character you meet within the game, Maddie will speak to you (the player), but the response to Maddie will be the father speaking to his daughter, saying whatever it was he said back to Maddie. It works so well and helped to keep up the charm of the story the whole way through.
If that explanation was hard to follow, I’ve included a short video clip below, to show you exactly what I mean.
As you can see in the video, Maddie is animated (and voiced) wonderfully. I wish I could say the same about the rest of her people. Beyond that clip, the player goes on to explore Maddie’s village, and while it is full of inhabitants, they are about as lively as animatronic characters on a theme park ride. You can’t interact with them, they don’t look at you when you approach, and they only have one or two animation patterns that they repeat in their stationary positions. As much as I wanted to explore every nook and cranny of the village (and subsequent populated areas) I knew it was fruitless as there was absolutely zero interaction to be had.
There were the occasional objects that I could interact with though. When activated, these objects triggered a narrative event that often involved the daughter interjecting a question into her father’s story, based on something that the player just witnessed. These little bits of story were the only reason I didn’t just dash my way through the populated areas.
There were also little radio stations that the Uncle had setup throughout the world. Finding and deactivating (which didn’t make sense to me) enough radios will unlock extra bonuses. The first reward is that players can change the color of the grappling beam. The second reward is that you turn into a goat and make goat noises every time you do something. Clearly, it’s worth listening for the recognizable bleeping that the radio stations emit.
I beat A Story About My Uncle in one sitting. Steam clocks my in-game time at 4.8 hours, and probably at least 45 minutes of that was idle time, where I left the game running in the background while I ate dinner. I’m surprised it was even that much time, it felt like hardly two hours when I think about it. Currently, the game only costs $12.99 on Steam, so that’s roughly $3 an hour, and easily worth that.
Besides a few confusing design decisions in later levels and cardboard-y background characters, A Story About My Uncle is a great, quick and easy, narrative-driven platforming game that kept me engaged through the end.