It has been some time since you saw your uncle Fred. He is the adventuring type, and once again he has gone off on an adventure, but this time for longer than usual. Because you are curious, you sneak into his house and see if you can find clues about where he’s gone. While there you find an adventure suit, just like the one he takes with him on all his adventures, but this is a special one sized just for you.
You try it on and play with the contraptions you find in his observatory. You find an interesting switch and flick it on. The dome of the observatory opens and you find yourself slingshotted out into the stars.
A Story About My Uncle is a first person action adventure game. It was developed by Gone North Games and published by Coffee Stain Studios. It was released in 2014.
I have seen reviews say A Story About My Uncle is a parkour simulator, but I think that is selling it short given its rich story that I’ll get to in a moment. The player can run and jump by holding down the shift key or hitting the space bar key respectively. The player’s adventure suit can do much more, such as an increased jump when holding down on the right mouse button.
The suit also has a powered grappling hook that can be used as a tractor beam to pull the player toward an object that is relatively close to their current position. Those who have used the grappling hook in Team Fortress mods or other first person shooters will likely understand the mechanic. If you haven’t, just think Spiderman.
An obstacle course of floating islands is provided for the player to cut their teeth on in their quest to finding their uncle Fred. It was great fun jumping from platform to platform in the strange jungle cave. I am typically afraid of heights, and I struggled with that fear when first playing A Story About My Uncle. But the game is very forgiving.
Your suit will protect you from all falls. The only thing dangerous concerning falling is falling into liquid since the suit is apparently too heavy to float. At least at the beginning of the game there are quick save beacons on nearly every surface. Just get in close proximity to one of these brightly lit beacons and your game will quick save. It’s easy to start over whenever you fail. In no time you’ll be able to bound around the game world handily enough to keep up with the story.
I had originally thought based on the vast empty world and the quiet and secluded ambiance that A Story About My Uncle would be a game in which I would find myself alone. The same adventure formulas used by classic adventures like the Myst and The Journeyman Project series seemed to be in play here.
I was playing in a dark room late at night with headphones on and out of no where I heard a voice say, “Hello, who are you? You’re not from here.” I just about jumped out of my seat. But as it turned out this friendly voice appeared to be attached to a friendly creature who knew my Uncle Fred. Maddie was her name and she gave me a tour around her village once I got there.
After her quick tour she went on ahead to talk to the village elder, Samuel, for me while I went to take a look around the village and Uncle Fred’s tent. There in the tent I saw that Maddie had drawn a picture for Uncle Fred. After finishing looking around the village I am supposed to meet Maddie and elder Samuel at his dwelling.
At this point I’m not sure what to expect next from A Story About My Uncle. It is following the predictable formulas I have come to expect from good adventure games while simultaneously throwing me quite a few curve balls thus far. The characters I have encountered seem charming and it feels so good to be swinging like Spiderman through a world of peaceful amphibious creatures. However there has to be some dark mysterious conflict somewhere. The story would not ultimately be compelling without it. Thus far the story telling has been too rich and the tension is building too great for there not to be some impending drama.
The player’s character is narrating in the future as a bedtime story to his daughter, so perhaps the story won’t get too out of hand. I’m really excited to see where it goes. In real life, I got sick with some kind of winter crud. Whenever this happens I usually pick out a simple turn-based Japanese role-playing game with a heavy but linear plot that I can mindlessly mash buttons to. It was refreshing to pick up A Story About My Uncle as it gave me the perfect mixture of fun non-complex action with a heavy dose of engaging story. I’m looking forward to reviewing this one once I have completed it soon. It would be great if there were some grappling hook universe out there I could escape to just to play video games in.
140 is a two-dimensional puzzle platformer with fat beats in which you play as a geometric shape. The game appears to be very minimalistic. The title screen boasts a flashy title with the title’s synthesized chiptune melody pounding in the background. When the player presses the enter key, the title screen melts into the stage selector where the player’s character is represented as a square in the middle of the screen.
When moving across a surface in the right or left direction, using the right or left arrow keys, the player’s character becomes a circle. The player may jump by pressing spacebar. Any time the player’s character is moving through the air it becomes a triangle.
A stage is selected by attracting colorful hovering circles and guiding them to these half-circle slots they fit into. There appear to be four stages to the game, unless there are other stages not represented by the first stage selection screen. Once a stage is completed, the player is brought back to the stage selection screen to fight a boss before they may move on to the next stage.
All of the moving platforms and obstacles in 140 move to the rhythm and beat of the chiptune soundtrack that plays throughout each level. The color schemes change as well based on the completion of puzzles throughout the levels which must be completed one at a time in order to progress. Falling into static or other deadly obstacles instantly kills a player’s character, but the player resurrects at the beginning of each save point liberally strewn throughout the stage, so the game is very forgiving. Thus far, I have found no permanent save game feature. Holding down the escape key exits the game.
In my first playthrough of 140 I made it through the first stage, beat the first boss, and completed a decent portion of the second stage. The stages are vivid and colorful, the music is topnotch and somewhat nostalgic. It makes me feel like I’m playing a modern Atari ST or Amiga game. The boss fight following the first stage played more like a Space Invaders style side-scrolling shooter, not at all what I had expected from playing thus far, but great fun none the less.
Perhaps when I beat 140 I will see the ending credits, but I decided to lookup more about the game on its Wikipedia page. 140 was developed independently by Jeppe Carlsen and released by Carlsen Games on Steam in 2013. Double Fine Productions has published versions of the game on consoles. At the time this article was published, 140 is currently included among the titles offered in a special Double Fine Productions Humble Bundle sale. For those who are subscribed to Humble Bundle Monthly, 140 is currently included in the Humble Bundle Trove.
Since 140’s graphics and sound are limited to geometric shapes and chiptunes respectively, this is a great title for children to play. Its initial difficulty is light allowing the player to learn the rules of the game while the difficulty does ramp up as the game progresses. There is no requirement to be literate to enjoy 140 as I have found no words or numbers to speak of outside of the title screen. The game is also DRM free and can be played across many of the devices I have.
I really like playing 140 and I’m looking forward to beating it. I have it loaded on my son’s laptop and I’m waiting for him to discover the shortcut for it on his laptop’s desktop to see what he thinks of it. Donating whatever you want to on the Double Fine Productions Humble Bundle sale for charity right now will unlock Mountain, 140, and Thoth. 140 alone is worth more than the minimum spent.
When I think of the XCOM series, I think of turn-based strategy and covert government agency management. I have fond memories of playing the first game in the series, XCOM: UFO Defense, with a close friend a few years after it came out in 1994. He found it in a bargain bin at a Tuesday Morning and talked his mom into getting it for him, much to our delight. The gameplay elements introduced in this first game were recreated in Firaxis Games’ reboot XCOM: Enemy Unknown released in 2012. In both of these games, the player recruits a squad of elite special forces soldiers to train and send on missions to defend against the extra-terrestrial menaces facing the planet while determining how government funding should be spent to best protect Earth’s security interests. The premise underlying these games provides intense potential for fantastic storylines across genres. And given the cult following of not only the original game, but also for shows like The X-Files, game developers worked to release other XCOM titles spanning other genres of gameplay.
Just casually walking up these stairs at a reduced speed talking to my superior officer on the telephone while all mayhem is breaking loose around me.
When I first installed and played The Bureau: XCOM Declassified, published in 2013 by 2K Games and developed by 2K Marin, I thought it would be based on XCOM: Enemy Unknown from the previous year. Interestingly, development on The Bureau: XCOM Declassified began in 2010 and these games seem in most ways unrelated outside of them both having the player defend earth from extra-terrestrial aggressors. The initial events of the game occur in 1962 during John F. Kennedy’s presidency. I haven’t played the game far enough to know if the developers made it tie-in with the story of other XCOM games in the series.
Press Spacebar to Enter Battle Focus Mode.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is primarily a third-person shooter with tactical elements. As the player receives new recruits throughout the game, they can press the spacebar to command those recruits to move to points of strategic cover and target specific enemy locations. The interface to this is similar in some ways to Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six but happens from within the mission. Time slows down when entering what is called “Battle Focus Mode,” but does not stop entirely and the player is vulnerable while they are making decisions.
Ducked behind a barrier for cover on a two-dimensional plane.
In general, the core gaming mechanics require that the player seek cover behind objects while being shot at, and when the time is right, use the right mouse button to aim and fire at enemies. Aiming makes you vulnerable, so it is prudent to time your shots when the enemy is firing the least and is the most vulnerable themselves. The controls used to take cover seemed a little awkward to me. Left-shift while facing a wall or other such structure is supposed to enable the player to crouch behind it. Left-shift while moving forward is also supposed to make the player run. Once in such a defensive position, the player may then use A or D on the keyboard to move left or right respectively across the defensive surface. This maps a number of two-dimensional planes onto a clearly three-dimensional world that is at best confusing. I have yet to tell if I’m just not comfortable with the controls yet, or if there is actually a disconnect in some cases with how the game’s engine handles ducking behind a surface versus running around in the larger three-dimensional environment.
Right-Click to Aim and Shoot Aliens in the Face
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a very linear game divided into levels with cutscenes throughout to advance the storyline. The storyline is fairly typical for its genre, though rich enough thus far. It reminds me a bit of Resistance: Fall of Man. It plays much like the typical console third-person shooter, but without any save-point frustration that I have noticed thus far. The player may press F5 at any time to get a graphical overlay with the direction they game intends for them to go to progress, and any in-game objects that can be interacted with glow a bright golden yellow.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is unfortunately only single-player. I think it would be incredible to have an arena in which players may strategically command their squad while simultaneously participating in a classic deathmatch. Perhaps someone could eventually release a mod for the game to accomplish this.
If you are a fan of TheX-Files, XCOM, Men in Black kind of stories, The Bureau: XCOM Declassified would be relevant to your interests. Outside of having an interesting story, I could think of a multitude of other games I would rather be playing. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a good game for what it is, polished and enjoyable. But it doesn’t quite stack up as a game that would keep me coming back again and again, like the more traditional games in the XCOM series whose namesake The Bureau: XCOM Declassified shares.