The Horror genre is one of gaming’s most interesting, as despite taking similar themes and settings, you can twist them in creative ways to things interesting. Focusing on either action or traditional horror, it’s a genre of games many enjoy fondly. The PS Vita platform is no stranger to horror games both suspenseful and action packed, so it’s a great system for horror gaming.
A new release on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 is a game called Uncanny Valley which takes many notes from horror classics to create a new experience. Being in the shoes of a lone security guard in a isolated facility, can you survive nightmares both in your dreams and in reality? Turn on your flash light and explore the snow-covered landscapes to find out!
You are in the shoes of a man named Tom and after traveling far away to avoid something after him, he works as a security guard for an abandon facility. Joined by his boss who is a bit harsh toward him, he is tasked with guarding the building every night. Simple set-up but after ever shift, you go to sleep and experience nightmares.
These nightmares give you context to Tom’s past and explain why he ran away from his home. Other little touches to explain the games backstory are tapes you find across the game world that explain what happened at the facility. However other aspects of the story can be very confusing depending on what actions you take in the game world. One example is a woman who states she loves Tom but her role in the story isn’t fully explained; you need to beat the game a few times to fully get what she does.
Story is quite interesting and you get the most out of it from repeated playthroughs. If you just run though it once, you might not fully understand every characters role in the game. Tom’s character is strong and I enjoyed reading his dialog throughout the game. While it could be clearer sometimes, the overall story of Uncanny Valley is interesting and nails the horror atmosphere it sets out to accomplish.
Design & Gameplay
The gameplay here is interesting, as you are largely defenseless throughout your adventure. Your main goal is to complete Tom’s Night-Guard shift every night and he is on a timer. You can bring the timer up by holding down the right stick and this mechanic adds tension to some parts of the game. One example is your boss telling you the power is out and you need to fix it. If you do so before the shift timer goes out, he thanks you the following night but if you fix it too late, he will complain that he had to go out in the middle of the night.
Things like this give the time mechanic a nice sense of pressure and after it goes out, you have a limited amount of time before you pass out. This forces you be mindful of how much you explore every night due to having objects/tools to collect; tapes, weapons and more can be found from exploring.
With the above mentioned elements, you have a sound horror experience and I enjoyed exploring various locations in the game world. The game also does a strong job making your experience interesting throughout the adventure. Every action you do in the game has impact and even simple actions can radically shift how the game plays. It creates a very reactive journey that pushes for repeated playthroughs.
Regarding controls, the game feels very responsive and usage of the touch screen in the PS Vita version is well utilized. Similar to adventure games, selecting an item lets you use them on interactive areas. You can even move with the D-Pad while using the touch screen/analog stick to use your items. Your health is indicated through your character model not a health bar, so it’s a nice visual touch to keep things away from menus.
Combat is very simple and is an aspect I rarely encountered throughout the game. So with a focus on exploring, level design is solid and enjoyable. Uncanny Valley is a solid experience that does a good amount right and offers players an experience that ensures every playthrough is unique.
Uncanny Valley is a great looking game due to having strong pixel art. The entire game is presented through pixels and sprites, which pops off the Vita screen. Locations have detail and effects such as light are used quite well throughout the game. Sound design is something I was impressed with personally, as it is done with a lot of care.
Listening to audio tapes has a muffled sound indicating it’s age, distance of sound effects/dialog is well utilized and creature sounds are honestly quite scary at points. Sound alone can make a horror game scary and Uncanny Valley accomplishing this is important.
Regarding how it runs, on the PS Vita version frame rate is stable while running at Native Resolution. Outside of some minor stuttering when saving, it’s a great running experience.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5
Horror games are becoming more common on the PlayStation Vita with Uncanny Valley being a great inclusion in that line up. Impressive pixel art, interesting story that strikes on your nerves, solid gameplay and design; this is a solid horror adventure that any fan of the genre can enjoy. While not the longest horror game, it will offer a great time for those that push for repeated playthroughs.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita using a review copy provided by the publisher/developer.