April 4, 2015 8:00 AM | Joel Couture
Death can be a hard thing to get right in a horror game. If you're not afraid of dying, then the creatures stalking you lose their ability to scare you. Die too much and the game's atmosphere loses its effectiveness as you focus on the fact that you're repeating the same stupid section over and over again. It's a hard balance to get right, but Cowardly Creations' Uncanny Valley is looking to bypass that issue in interesting ways. The developer isn't getting rid of death altogether, but is focusing more on making the player's failures have grave consequences for the story and characters in its world. If you screw up, the game moves on.
Uncanny Valley is looking to offer a lot of freedom in what it lets the players do, mingling in adventure style puzzles with relentless enemies you'll need to hide from. As Tom, a night watchman, you have to take care of the Melior facility, and you have expected duties to do during your shift. Unless you don't want to. After your shift, you're free to go home and sleep. Unless you don't want to do that, either. The player is free to do what the game asks or go off on a tangent, and the game tracks what you do and what you find. There are things you're not going to want to discover, though, and those strange beings, as well as the skeletons in Tom's closet, push the game into its more horrifying aspects. Meanwhile, the game is taking stock of your actions, injuries, and failures, guiding the events along your specific version of the story.
The developer has gone out of their way to make your actions mean something. Reams of in-game objects can be interacted with, giving background story, hints, and puzzles to be solved. These same items can also be destroyed, giving player access to new things or cutting off avenues of discovery. Even Tom can be injured in limb-specific ways that hinder movement and what he is capable of, and short of finding some limited supplies to help yourself, you will have to live with all of the consequences of those wounds. You will pay for every decision you make and every action you take in Uncanny Valley, and if that sounds interesting to you, then you can go download the demo or put down a preorder down in advance for the game's release later this month.