Uncanny Valley review for PS Vita, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Developer: Cowardly Creations
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

From a purely superficial point of view, Uncanny Valley seems to do a few things right. First and foremost, it’s creepy. The sparse, haunting score; the fact you’re walking around in darkness, with only a small area illuminated by your flashlight; the generally empty hallways and rooms of the facility you’re tasked with guarding; the scattered notes and tapes that gradually reveal the horror that’s unfolded: all of these things add up to create an unsettling whole. For a horror game, that’s just about all you could ask for.

On top of that, it looks really neat. Uncanny Valley is unquestionably indebted to the days of 8-bit gaming, but it makes very little convey a whole lot. The characters are expressive, the environments seem surprisingly detailed, and the general lack of detail adds to the creepiness, rather than subtracts from it.

Unfortunately, things fall apart when you start looking a little more closely…by which I mean the moment you start playing it. Walking is a massive chore; it takes forever to get from one side of the screen to the other, since your character moves like they’re stuck in molasses and running drains all their energy after about two seconds. Seeing as you spend the bulk of this game simply walking around the abandoned facility, doing your rounds, you can probably see why that becomes an issue.

Dialogue, likewise, is presented in a pretty annoying way. Characters talk via speech bubbles, which stay in one spot regardless of where you are on-screen. Move a little too far in one direction or another, and suddenly you can’t read what’s being said anymore. While the obvious solution is to, you know, not move, that doesn’t lessen the frustration you may feel if you miss a key piece of information.

The worst part of the game, though, is that the story simply isn’t that interesting — not least because it’s designed to encourage multiple playthroughs. Doing it once is kind of tolerable, if a little slow-moving. Playing three or four or five times, just to make sure you didn’t miss anything? Considering how much shuffling slowly across the screen that entails, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s not worth the effort.

If you’re being charitable, of course, you may say that this is simply an example of Uncanny Valley moving at its own pace, or that horror works best when it draws things out and builds up the tension. However true that may be, if you’re not feeling charitable — perhaps because you’re bored out of your mind and tired of exploring the facility and hotel in which the game takes place at a glacial pace — then it’d be very, very easy to throw your hands up in frustration and move on to something that moves a little faster.

Grade: C