July 18, 2014 9:00 AM | Lena LeRay
A Story About My Uncle is a first person platformer set in a a bedtime story about a boy adventuring through a strange world on a search for his uncle. The game first debuted in 2012 as a freeware prototype. Since then, developer Gone North Games has made it prettier, added more areas, improved the voice acting, and fine tuned the controls to make for an excellent game about exploring a fantasy land by hurtling through the air in all directions.
The game is narrated as a bedtime story a man is telling his daughter about a time that he went to his Uncle Fred's house as a boy to find him missing. The player takes the role of the boy in the story, putting on an adventuring suit found in Uncle Fred's lab and using another of Uncle Fred's inventions to teleport to a strange world where the suit's extraordinry jumping abilities and grappling glove allow the boy to travel quickly across gaps and great distances to try and find Uncle Fred. Along the way, the boy encounters strange creatures and plants in environments dark and bright.
A Story About My Uncle is a non-violent game which puts emphasis on story and exploration. The first area, Fred's workshop, is small, but it's packed with notes and objects that either reveal things about Uncle Fred or nod to other games and non-game forms of media. There are even pages containing part of the script for the game itself which serve as a bit of meta-commentary on developers hiding things in games. Once past Fred's workshop, though, exploration takes on a more natural form; there are things hidden throughout the world that will take some skill and observation to reach.
It's hard to get lost in A Story About My Uncle, as long as the player keeps an eye out both above and below. Every checkpoint is an arrow pointing in the general direction the player needs to go, though sometimes the player needs to jump down and other times they need to make their way upwards. The grappling mechanic that is the core of the game allows for levels that snake around 3D space in ways most first-person games can't get away with, and it's well-used. Checkpoints are frequent, too, preventing the loss of a great deal of effort due to a single mistimed click.
There are secrets to find, though, throughout the levels. Some of them are countable and mentioned in the pause menu, such as the measuring devices Fred has left scattered all over the place. Others are written on walls in an alien script that players will learn to decode as they progress, or paintings. Sometimes items can be interacted with to trigger a small sidestory, a tangent inserted into the bedtime story because the girl asks a question about a minor detail. All of these things give the player plenty of reason to explore the gorgeous environments.
A Story About My Uncle taps into the joy of imagining strange and wondrous journeys while offering a unique and well-tuned platforming experience. All of the achievements the game offers are skill or exploration based (only two of the fifteen have been acheived by more than 1/3% of the game's owners) and it is potentially good speedrun material, though the frequent checkpoints make the game accessible to most skill levels. It's a gem of a game and well worth checking out.
It can be obtained via Steam for $12.99 and is available for Windows only. It was published with the support of Goat Simulator and Sanctum developer Coffee Stain Studios.