A Story About My Uncle developed by Gone North Games and published by Coffee Stain Studios was released on May, 2014.
In this game, you play as the narrator who is telling a story to his daughter. About his uncle Fred who disappeared one day and how your search looking for you uncle, lead you to finding an adventure of a lifetime.
Your uncle Fred has been missing for several months now, and you (his nephew, at this youth; around 10 years old?) decide to visit his house to see if he has returned from his adventure yet. Your uncle also seems to be some sort of scientist/inventor based on the objects and books around his house. There are two things of main interest in uncle Fred’s house: a blackboard detailing his latest experiment of creating a waste disposal system and a miniature adventure suit designed for you.
Needless to say, you wore the adventure suit that fits you so well and tested out your uncle’s garbage disposal system for reasons unknown. Only to end up in a strange alien world, with clues that your uncle Fred ended up in the same place as well. The adventure suit is going to become very handy.
The adventure suit comes with a grappling hook system (in your right glove), shock absorbers that negate any fall damage upon landing and a charged jump ability. You later find some jet-propelled boots that will aid you reaching places that your boost+sprint jump ability can’t reach, or that your grappling hook can’t exactly target. Thankfully most of the controls for the suit is intuitive and easy to use. Charged jump and grappling hook uses your mouse buttons while the boots use the space-bar.
I loved the idea of using the suit to help you travel through the alien world, which mostly consists of floating rocks. The scenery is just so beautiful to look at (even when I get frustrated). While I wasn’t a fan of the chasms chapter, mostly due to the darkness, even then it had its own beauty. At least you could use your grapple hook to light up a specific plant for more light in that chapter.
When you finish the main game, you can replay levels in something like a time trail with no narrative. The game certainly does have makings of a time trial game, so it is nice to see that Gone North Games implemented that for players who are up for that.
The main game itself is rather linear with lots of narration and interaction with other characters. Yes, there is life on the alien world. Your main companion for most of the game will be Maddie who is sort of bipedal frog-human child. Not the best of descriptions. It is suggested they are frogs since you, the narrator mentions the time you and uncle Fred found some frog eggs and how uncle Fred believed they were special. I am going off-topic. Maddie is adventurous and seems to have a gift when it comes to creating inventions but does not seem to fit in with her village and their ideals. Therefore she is an outcast and thus rather lonely, especially since her mentor/friend/possible father figure: Uncle Fred has left the village. From the story, I guess this also applies to the narrator hence why there was a feeling of kinship between you (the narrator) and Maddie since they both see Uncle Fred as a father/mentor figure.
You can also find objects in the environments that bring more backstory, giving further insight into uncle Fred and the narrator’s relationship with him.
It felt like there was two-story arcs: one on Maddie and how she felt like she didn’t belong in her village and obviously the story of you finding your uncle. It was bittersweet seeing when Maddie’s “story-arc” ended. It was a happy ending since she finally found where she could be accepted and not treated as an outsider. Yet she was your companion for about two-three chapters. So you are back on your own alone to finish the journey.
Although I hated the segment where she challenges to you complete a section without using your grappling hook once. It wasn’t so much the repetitive line of “told you, you couldn’t do it” when you ended up using the hook, but because it made me so determined to prove I could do it, so I spent over 30 minutes of so many “so close” moments before I finally beat her dare. However, that line does become very grating so a little variation on the lines for failing would make it less frustrating. Nevertheless, I did enjoy hearing what she had to say and it was nice having her company. So when you both party ways at the conclusion of her story, it was fitting but sad at the same time. I like how the narrator’s daughter asks whether the narrator (you) had any feelings for Maddie and how he became somewhat flustered while answering.
Speaking about the story, while I loved the story and its gentleness as a bedtime story. The voice-acting could used a little tweaking. The problem with the voice acting came down mainly to how much sense it made, rather than delivery. Some of the lines literally did not make sense to me, such as this dialogue when the narrator’s daughter is sympathizing with Maddie:
Daughter: “She didn’t have a real father right, if she was born from an egg?”
Narrator: “That’s another thing we had in common.”
Yes, I understood that the narrator was referring to the fact that they both did not have fathers; the wording could been better though. Since for a moment it had me going: erm, what?
[In hindsight: I guess it could make sense since…you know we were technically an ovary egg at conception and-you know what? Nevermind]
At other times, the voice-acting just captures the moment perfectly like the parental awkwardness when your daughter tells you about her friend who proclaims she will marry a vampire, and the somewhat forced reply you give.
As I said before, the landscape in the game is so strikingly beautiful which is what drew me to the game in the first place. Besides the idea of flying around the game with a grappling hook. You transverse through six different environments ranging from your uncle’s house, the chasms, the sky village and ice caves.
The checkpoint system needs a bit of tweaking in my opinion, mostly since I felt they were further back than necessary so you needed to repeatedly navigate the easy section before returning to where you were before. It would be perfect if you were given more freedom to explore, since the game has so much potential but is limited by the linear path of the story.
I have mixed feelings about the story’s ending. I was hoping that you would find your uncle and return back to your world: basically a happy ending. However, once Maddie’s story arc finished, I quickly realized that the ending would probably be bittersweet, that was blindly obvious. I was still hoping for an ending that would had allowed your uncle to have best of both worlds but I guess that wasn’t possible. Despite the bitter-sweetness of the ending, it did not pack a punch.
Nevertheless, A Story About My Uncle is a beautiful visual experience that has a decent story. The checkpoint system and certain platform levels will be frustrating at times. Voice-acting was adequate but the wording of the dialogue needed some tweaking. Good luck on trying to complete Maddie’s dare though, cause that was evil to try to beat. The game is somewhat cheap, going for $13SGD and will take you a couple of hours to beat.