Uncanny Valley on PC
There are a lot of ways to do horror in video games. The most common kinds, probably, are the jump-scare heavy, edge-of-your-seat style and then the slow, methodical psychological horror that preys on your anticipation that terrifying things are lurking in the shadows of your own mind. Uncanny Valley falls much more into the second category. While a few moments of sudden action can definitely get your heart going, the majority of the game relies on a dread of the unknown and the creeping feeling that not all is as it seems.
Uncanny Valley follows a cop-turned-guard, Tom, who’s taken up a position at a remote, abandoned facility to escape from some troubles in the city. Far away from civilization, this run-down building seems part science lab, part factory, and all unsettling. Together with Buck, who takes up the day shift, Tom is charged with patrolling the halls at night to ensure no trouble arises. Gameplay is broken up into days, with each night lasting roughly seven minutes of real time. During this time, players can mostly act freely, either patrolling the facility’s empty halls and snooping through former employee’s emails, or roaming around the apartment building that once served as housing for those employees.
Uncanny Valley is very, very good at the slow, creeping uneasiness of something not being right. While the first night or two of Tom’s new position as night guard tend to pass without much incident, a number of things unfold along the way that, whether explicit or not, have bearing on how the story will end. The game features a number of endings, and more than one pathway to these, meaning that even the most insignificant decision along the way has meaning as the impending horror seeps in. Players shift between the waking hours of Tom’s largely-dull job and the unsettling nightmares that terrorize him as he sleeps without much indication of which reality is which, creating an unsettling feeling that you can’t be sure what’s happened, or what’s real.
I’ll admit, it took me some time to get into Uncanny Valley. The early going is pretty tame, and the pace moves slowly as you first explore the facility grounds. The seven minute “limit” on each night’s actions keeps things going, though, and the game allows players some time after shift end to get Tom back to his room for bed. Of course, you can always simply ignore the need for sleep and keep pushing, though Tom will eventually collapse from exhaustion. Either way, most sleep sessions result in the twisted dreams that are some of the more compelling, action-oriented portions of the game, including several chase scenes that have a frantic Tom running from hordes of shadowy enemies or worse.
As players explore Uncanny Valley, it becomes more and more apparent that the facility was once used to develop and construct androids. Emails and audio tapes tell much of the tale of the company’s eventual downfall, and hint at much darker things under the surface. Legal troubles, financial inconsistencies, and more crop up the further Tom digs, and the musings of the mysterious Eve, the only other resident of the area who claims responsibility for cleaning up the place, begin to paint a disturbing picture of things gone horribly wrong. Tom’s role in the whole thing seems much more than just that of security guard, but these are secrets best uncovered through playing and poking around to find answers.
While Uncanny Valley is a fairly short play, the fact that several endings exist definitely adds some good value. Add to this the fact that, more often than not, players will end up completing the game (one way or another) before seeing all there is to see, and the $9.99 price on Steam seems fair. I managed to play through three different ways in three hours of play time, but found myself wanting to jump back in each time to explore new areas or make use of some useful tidbit I’d picked up the last time through. The game creates a compelling sense of dread, and packs just enough into a relatively small package that multiple plays are essentially required just to find everything that it has to offer. For anyone that’s a fan of a less action-oriented style of horror, the seething mysteries of Uncanny Valley are definitely worth looking in to.