I can’t remembered how I first came across this game. I got it as a gift from my IRL friend for Christmas (I think, it’s been some time), and I spent a fair bit of time playing around when I got it. Recently, I saw it again while looking through my Steam library for something to play (I know I know, first world problems), replayed it, and recalled how good it was. It was a nice indie game by Gone North Games that deserves getting a look at. If that name seems familiar, it’s because they are also the developers for Goat Simulator.
The story starts off with the narrator, which is our protagonist as a grown man, telling a bedtime story to his daughter. He told her a tale of him, as a boy, looking around in his uncle’s house when he had gone on an adventure. His uncle, Fred, had not been keeping in touch with the protagonist for quite some time, and he was getting worried.
Throughout the story, the grown-up protagonist serves as the narrator and the daughter is the audience surrogate. The back-and-forth between the two during the game’s downtime fills us in on the story and some details on the protagonist’s relationship with Fred.
After looking around, he found an adventure suit, and the suit, quote “fit like it had been custom-made for me”, “me” being the protagonist. After donning the suit, the protagonist headed off to the observatory, where a prototype garbage disposal pad was held. Curiosity got the better of him, and he activated the pad, which sent him flying into a strange new world.
In that strange new world, he found signs of Fred’s recent presence, and deduced that Fred was there. Following these signs, he used his suit and some upgrades he found on the way to pursue Fred in this otherworldly place.
The story of this game is great, but not in the same way that the story of the Dark Souls and Witcher series was good. The best way I can think of to describe it is using music as a metaphor. The story of Dark Souls and Witcher are like orchestral pieces, complex, rich and deep, something that echoes within your mind as you left the theatre. The story of A Story About My Uncle is like listening to a wonderful melody played on a flute, simple, pleasant, and it leaves a faint but indelible impression on your heart. I hope that makes sense, because I have no other way of describing it, and I do not want to spoil the story.
The other significant character, aside from the previously-mentioned ones, is Maddie. She was part of the weird amphibious race native to this world you and Fred landed in. A close friend of Fred, she was ostracized by the village for her weird mannerisms and inquisitiveness. She tagged along in your quest to find Fred, but parted ways some time before the end, entrusting you to find him and convey to him how much she misses him. She found a place where the people don’t mind her weirdness and shares the same inquisitive and experimentative spirit as her.
For the first time, she felt that she belonged somewhere. She joined you out of concern for Fred, but also to escape her village where she felt like an outsider. Now that she finally arrived somewhere she was accepted, she was reluctant to follow you and leave the place where she felt at home in.
Her knowledge of the world you landed in guided you through a large part of your way. Her insecurities were pitiable and endearing. Her voice was a reassuring presence as you roam the dark caverns on this foreign land. The parting was painful to both of you, and Maddie was as reluctant to do this as you were, but you had to move on, and she must stay.
I like Maddie.
The visuals of this game is simply fantastic. The environments fully capture the beauty and wonder of a different world, in the eyes of a curious and awestruck child. It is definitely one of the prettiest game I have ever played. Not to mention, there are a lot of highly varied environments too.
The best part of the game, however, is the gameplay. You get a maximum of three charges for your grapple beam which can be replenished by zapping crystals that are glowing with the same blue glow as your device and the beams themselves, or by landing on the ground. And for some reason, the more mundane method of replenishing your charges is the more bewildering one. Like, how does having both feet on the ground replenish your grapple beam charges? Sapping energy from the glowing crystals to recharge makes sense, but how is landing … you know what, never mind.
Aside from that, you can also do a charged jump. Later on in the game, you also get rocket boots, which allows you to burst through the air in the direction you’re looking at once while airborne. Every time you use your grapple beam, a glowing blue glyph appears on the surface your beam attaches to. The game marks some spots with the glyphs, both as a hint as to how to navigate the area and as a sign that Fred was there.
The game controls well, and flying across large empty spaces feels exhilarating. There is a sense of freedom as you fly through the air, leaving gravity and the ground behind. That said, this game is as much a puzzle as it is a 3D platformer. Figuring out how you are supposed to get from point A to point B is as important as airstrafing to land on a platform the size of a kiddie pool from twenty yards above.
I love this game. It is fun, engaging, and the story and visuals sealed the deal for me. It is a two-hour game, but it is well worth the price and your time. If you are interested, the game’s Steam store page is here.
And by the way, stay for the after credits scene.