A Story About My Uncle managed to go under my radar for quite a while, having not really heard anything about the game both in reading games websites, and in talking to friends. Eventually, my brother showed me the game whilst I was visiting family one weekend, saying it looked fantastic, and shouting about how much it needs to be played. I bought it on steam, and ignored it for a good long while. Being the start of a new year I decided it was time to actually give the game a go and put it through its paces to see if it deserved as much hype my brother was lauding it with.
So to set up the premise of A Story About My Uncle, you play as a child looking for his estranged uncle, all the while this is being narrated to a little girl as a bedtime story. You start the game off in your uncles laboratory, and happen across a suit made just like your uncles, only smaller, as if it was made for you. Donning it and proceeding upstairs, you come across a “Garbage” pad, which, once activated, sends you to a new and wonderful place.
It’s at this point that the game starts proper, with the suit you have being capable of jumping extremely high, and grappling onto most objects in the environment. You use these abilities to jump from floating island to floating island in pursuit of more of the story. There’s no fall damage or permanent death in ASAMU, but the scarcity of islands to land on certainly makes for a challenging game none-the-less. Despite this simplicity, ASAMU really manages to stand out from the crowd, easily leaving a good impression on me over the course of its 3 hour campaign.
So apart from the jumping mechanic, what makes ASAMU such a good game? Well for one, the story that I spoke of earlier is actually quite enticing, with little snippets of dialogue explaining more of the world around you as and when appropriate being a compliment to an otherwise good plot. The ambition to find your uncle and see what more this world has to offer is as good a reason as any to progress through the story, and it helps that the gameplay really holds up when pushed to it’s limits towards the end of the game.
The puzzle mechanics of ASAMU are also commendable, with every level being huge in scale, it’s hard to know where to jump and which direction to go in order to make sure you land on the correct platform. Retrying certain jumps in different ways can help to progress, and helps in constantly teaching you new things about the physics in use in ASAMU. you get a real feeling the the more that you play and fail, the more you’re learning, which in turn helps you later on. The game didn’t feel at all boring during the short campaign, with each section amping the difficulty perfectly.
There are flaws in the game’s campaign – a section towards the end of the game in some caverns comes to mind – where the 3-grapple limit really starts to grind at your patience rather than actually being a good game mechanic set to challenge you. There are ways around this 3-grapple limit BUT at times they really don’t work as intended, meaning you’ll end up dying far too many times; a huge deterrent that almost got me to walk away from the game in its final moments.
Another flaw is the lack of progress on ideas that are brought in, but quickly discarded whilst on your voyage through the world. Half way through the campaign for example there’s an eye monster that you must avoid by not moving when it’s eye is open. This part of the campaign felt brilliant for what was possible in future encounters; maybe there’ll be one boss I’ll need to kill by jumping between spikes on a ceiling that fall? I thought to myself once this area was done. Unfortunately, nothing ever come of this encounter, with nothing like it appearing again. This isn’t necessarily a scathing brush against the developers; I enjoyed the eye monster encounter, I just wish there were more encounters like it.
Overall, I’m glad I finally got around to playing ASAMU. It’s a genuinely good platformer that has a great deal of replayability, especially in it’s time trial mode and in the amount of collectibles that are hidden throughout the campaign. Did it deserve the amount of hype my brother lauded it with? Maybe not, but its certainly a game that deserved way more attention than it initially received, a shame for such a solid game with a great core premise.