Developed by the Swedish studio Gone North Games, A Story About My Uncle is a first-person platformer unlike anything I’ve ever played before. Generally when someone uses the terms “first-person” and “platformer” in the same sentence, I want to drop what I’m doing and immediately run in the opposite direction. However, I was instantly drawn to the game thanks to its fantastic narrative and astounding level design, but it was definitely the increasingly difficult platforming that kept my attention the most.
The narrative is told as a bedtime story to your daughter before going to sleep. As a child, you wanted nothing more than to accompany your uncle Fred on one of his crazy adventures, but one day he goes missing. After searching his home, you stumble upon a special suit before being swept away to a land far beyond the reaches of your imagination. It’s here that you’ll meet a growing population of froglike creatures who not only call this place home, but know the whereabouts of uncle Fred.
A Story About My Uncle is one-part narrative, where you explore areas and interact with items that further the story between your character and his uncle — think Gone Home, but with a completely different subject matter. The other part is a beautifully designed platforming experience, using your new-found adventure suit.
As you navigate caves and floating islands, your primary method of transportation is your suit’s grappling hook, although its use is limited to three charges until you safely land on the ground. Midway through the game, you’ll also obtain rocket boots which allow you to propel yourself in mid-air, further adding to the complexity of the platforming puzzles in every portion of the game from that moment forward. A Story About My Uncle offers expertly crafted levels and will truly put your platforming skills to the test, especially in its final act.
It’s also not as simple as going from point A to point B, as sometimes you won’t really know where point B is. There is no map, no HUD and no indicator as to where you should be going, so the only way to figure it out is to adventure off on your own and take part in some old fashioned exploration. And trust me, the levels are so damn gorgeous that you’ll have no problem taking your time and looking around.
Graphically, A Story About My Uncle can be a bit of a mixed bag, as it’s environments are fantastic, but some of the characters you’ll come across seem a bit dated and lifeless. It didn’t effect my overall enjoyment of the game in any way, but I felt it was something worth pointing out.
As I explored this new world, I was constantly reminded of Bioshock 2, mainly due to its use of dark blacks in combination with vibrant neons. It was definitely a feast for the eyes as much as the brain, as I enjoyed exploring each zone as much as I did figuring out how to traverse them.
A Story About My Uncle is a fairly difficult game, and I think that’s where it draws the line on being more of a platformer and less a narrative experience. As a fan of platformers, I enjoyed the solid combination of both themes, but I think anyone going in to the game just to experience the narrative will be in for a rude awakening. I’m not saying it’s an impossible game, but it does require a lot of perseverance and persistence that the narrative crowd may not be willing to give, although what may make it more appealing is the complete absence of combat.
Some of the later platforming portions really tested my patience, but it’s all about learning from your mistakes and improving on your next attempt. There was actually one part toward the end of the game which was so mind-bogglingly difficult that I messaged Gone North Games on Twitter, jokingly telling them that they were going to give me an aneurism. However, their reply basically put the entire game in to perspective in one sentence — “I wonder what happens if you practice what you just learned on the next part!” — and that’s when it all made sense.
Overall, A Story About My Uncle is a beautifully designed game with a charming narrative and ferociously precise platforming that was a blast to play through. I didn’t know what to expect in the beginning, but the end result was not only a welcome surprise, but also the best game I’ve played so far in 2014. Sure, Watch Dogs and Mario Kart 8 release this week as well, but A Story About My Uncle is the game you should be playing instead.
Recommended for fans of: Gone Home, difficult platformers, and the delicious visuals of Bioshock 2.
Bradley Keene is an avid gamer & aspiring writer from Baltimore, MD that handles news, reviews and editing here at What’s Your Tag?. If he’s not writing or knee-deep in an MMO, he’s usually watching low-budget horror films or following Orioles baseball. Follow him on Twitter, Twitch or contact him by e-mail. Love gaming? Join TEAM XBRO today!