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Uncanny Valley (Video Game)

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Uncanny ValleyDeveloped by Cowardly Creations

Not Classified by ESRB (best for ages 13+)

Available on PC through Steam


I give Indie games a lot of unnecessary heat. It isn’t that I genuinely despise the unending tide in a manner an overweight Texan stares at the border and begins to foam at the mouth while stroking his shotgun. I’m mostly just critical of art in general, which I feel much of the market isn’t. As long as you have some trendy art style and a message about how life is sad or stuff happens, then people can’t wait to trip over themselves to give you hyperbolic praise. I don’t dislike a game for being indie, I dislike games that are bad, and indie games don’t just get a pass for being low-budget and made in a basement. Sure, I get that there are different standards that have to be applied, but there still has to be standards.

So despite all of the hard-line negativity I fling at the indie tidal wave, I love it when an indie game comes along that makes me feel like it’s all worthwhile. Uncanny Valley proves that a game can both be low-budget, have something to say, and still be interesting and playable. Though a brief game, Uncanny Valley tells several stories in a natural and dynamic format. It demands more than one playthrough, and with all there is to dive into, it is a demand I was happy to meet.

As of writing this, I have only beaten the game three times. The developer says that there are eight endings, but I’m not sure exactly how similar each ending is, so I can’t definitely say you need to get all eight to fully grasp what is going on. Having gotten three, I have a pretty good understanding of the surface of the world, but there is still a whole surreal world of symbolism to dive into, so forgive my relative inability to explain the intricacies of the nightmare world or the exact relationships between the characters.

The visual graphics are standard pixel art fare: serviceable, but not excellent. The shadow creatures of the dream world attack you in a decently interesting manner, but what really makes the visuals stand out is in the design. The “real” world (or what passes for one while awake) is a stark contrast to the surreal nightmare world, whose claustrophobic spaces and oppressive darkness make the lonely halls of the hotel and facility seem open and inviting. Things can get truly horrifying at times, and as you slowly realize that nowhere is safe, the visuals evolve to match.

It pairs well with sound design that isn’t afraid to use silence. A lot of games try to fill as much audio space as they can with overwrought monologues or music, but there’s a tranquility to Uncanny Valley that is just waiting to break. The shrieks and slams of the nightmare world reflect the surreal and dreadful mind of the protagonist, while the echoing footsteps in the facility remind you that you are alone, exploring the abandoned remains of a place once alive. As a game, it shows an excellent understanding of design and player experience. As an art piece, it shows vision.

I’m someone who always eats his salad before his steak, so I’ve been awash with anticipation to talk about the story design. With all the straightforward narratives, I get used to a certain method of things being spelled out to me. I forget sometimes that I might be a little clever, and Uncanny Valley reminded me of how satisfying piecing together a story on your own can be. Nothing in the game is directly spelled out for you beyond the initial instructions and introductions, allowing you to pursue the world in a direction of your liking.

Reading emails and searching the facility for tapes gives you snippets into the lives of the previous employees, who come together to tell stories of adultery, corporate dickery, personal fears, and a project both grand and sinister. This was the story I first chose to pursue, leading me to the discovery of an AI who was just not quite perfect.

The nightmare world is what I explored next, as the protagonist is transported each night in his dreams to memories haunted by shadows. It reveals a new side of the story, a personal narrative about a single man’s haunted past that juxtaposes the titanic struggle against a corporate produced machine of the waking world. This world is also just slightly not right, as characters responses are odd and disconnected and environments a bit off.

The characters that inhabit the waking world are also just slightly unreal. The mysterious Eve is too familiar with you, and needy enough that it’s almost like she needs you to exist. The obese Buck starts off friendly enough, but slowly gets more negative and aggressive with seemingly no slights on your part. You lack control of how these characters act, and they get more extreme as the game goes on.

All three together rope into the theme of the game’s namesake, the “uncanny valley.” Things artificial become more sympathetic as they become more human-like, until they reach a variable point known as the uncanny valley. At this point, things that are almost human disturb us. The sense of the uncanny is too great, and we notice more how something is just not quite right than we would if it wasn’t attempting to be a perfect replica. As technology advances and seemingly perfect visual and artificial intelligence becomes possible, things dip more and more into this uncanny valley, but we also become more desensitized to it. The game reaches back into that concept with story, doing with pixel art what creepy Japanese love dolls have done since lonely men decided they wanted their fleshlights to be furniture pieces that creep you out.

The diverse storytelling methods and quality of the stories pulls the game out of just being a good indie game into the realm of a great game in a larger market. While there certainly are more robust or epic stories out there, the mastery of narrative process and style brings the game a cut above the limitations in budget. Most importantly, it lacks the pretension that games like this often fall into in hopes of being trendy and unique. It tells a great story in an interesting fashion, and doesn’t let it descend into hyperbole.

I have to do my due diligence and list the flaws. The game suffers from several bugs, including looped animations and disappearing text. The game does a good job explaining itself initially, but many puzzles require moon logic or interactions that are poorly explained. The game has a lot of dead area, which while it serves in fleshing out the world, also makes the game seem like it lacks content. It also is pretty short, which works well in the multi-playthrough format, but might turn people off that are looking for a longer singular narrative.

It is amazing how well they did with so little funding. They only got 900 euros on their Indiegogo, a point that would lead a lesser dev to abandon the project. I’m sure at one point the game was a far more ambitious project, but now serves as an example of shoring up your losses and delivering a great product within budget. It isn’t perfect, but it lights a spark of hope in the indie market that I haven’t felt in years.

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Exclusive: Wolfmen of Mars Debut New Group Brass Hearse and Here’s a New Song

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A couple of months ago, we told you about Brass Hearse, a new group that features the members of Boston rock/synth group Wolfmen of Mars. Essentially the same style but now with vocals, Brass Hearse will immediately stand out to fans of John Carpenter but those who listen closer will pick up on elements of The Cure and even some Type O Negative. If you’ve been looking for some goth-y electronic rock with splashes of industrial thrown in hither and yon, I have a feeling you’re going to dig the hell out of Brass Hearse!

Previously, Wolfmen of Mars’ Luke told us, “It’s Wolfmen of Mars with vocals, but very much its own thing. A bit darker, a little bit more new wave. It’s a hard album to describe. Ron Rochondo from Ice Dragon wrote all the vocals and they fit the music perfectly. I can’t wait to share the tunes with you!

Well, today is the day that we get to share a taste of the new tunes with all of you! Below is the premiere of the track “Rain Grey, Dark Sky”, which swirls and pumps in a controlled frenzy, the verse containing itself only to open wide during the chorus, the sonorous vocals suddenly crying out like a ghastly specter.

Brass Hearse’s debut album will be available on vinyl and as a digital download on December 1 from Burning Witches Records. Meanwhile, you can download “Ran Grey, Dark Sky” via Bandcamp.

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Exclusive: Sean Patrick Flanery-Led Lasso Ropes in Multiple Offers After AFM Appearance

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Lasso, a horror film starring Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints, Saw 3D), was in attendance at this year’s American Film Market in Santa Monica and it seems to have made quite the impression! The film is currently in the middle of several distribution offers, some of which include theatrical distribution plans. No choice has been made by the Lasso team as they’re still hearing more and more offers but it’s certainly intriguing and exciting to see a horror film get so much attention!

Director Evan Cecil tells Dread Central, ““I am crazy flattered and honored at all the attention and interest Lasso received during the American Film Market and is still receiving from our industry peers. A lot of effort was put into making something different and interesting but most of all entertaining and fun to watch. Of course, we are hoping for a theatrical deal because that would be beyond cool, but also because the big screen is still the best way to watch a horror film. I love the thought of horror fans getting to enjoy Lasso all huge!

We can also reveal that we’ve been told that the film has 20 unique kills during its current 97-minute runtime, which means an average of one kill for approximately every four minutes! If you’re into horror for the body count, sounds like Lasso is going to be right up your alley!

Cecil directs and also produces alongside Todd J Myers and Elaine Gibson. Flanery stars with Lindsey Morgan (“The 100”), Karen Grassle, Andrew Jacobs, Travis Andre Ross, Heather Mignon, and Skyler Cooper.

Synopsis:
Kit (Lindsey Morgan) and Simon (Andrew Jacobs) are two young leaders of an Active Senior Tour group who go out on an adventure to a small-town Rodeo festival located deep in the woods. It’s a great experience for the group…until they try to leave. Simon and Kit must save themselves, and whatever seniors they can, from becoming victims of a deadly Rodeo Ritual. Along the way they join up with another unexpected group of victims, including a one-armed cowboy, Ennis (Sean Patrick Flanery), Rosheen, the Rodeo queen, and Trish, a powerhouse female bull rider. Together the group must fight to survive the night from relentless bloodthirsty cowboys on the hunt for human livestock.

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The Walking Dead Ratings Drop to Six-Year Low

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Well, this isn’t good.

Turns out that AMC’s hit zombie series “The Walking Dead” has hit a ratings low with the release of it’s newest episode “The Big Scary U”. A rating drop the likes of which the series hasn’t seen since the dog days of season 2.

Personally, season 2 was when I ditched the series and never looked back. I’ve heard a lot over the years that the series improved greatly moving on from the disastrousrious second season, but I’m all good.

I have shows like “Stranger Things” (review), “Mindhunter”(review), and “AHS: Cult” (review) to keep me company.

For full breakdown on the recent rating drop with a bunch of stats involving demographics and whatnot, you can check out Deadline‘s article on the matter.

Everyone else I guess can just keep moving on with their lives.

Do you still watch “The Walking Dead”? Should I give the series another shot? Make sure to hit us up and let us know in the comments below or on social media!

The Walking Dead Season 8 is currently airing on AMC.

Season 8 synopsis:

Last season, Rick Grimes and his group of survivors were confronted with their deadliest challenge yet. With the comfort of Alexandria, they let their guard down, only to be reminded how brutal the world they live in can be.

Feeling powerless under Negan’s rules and demands, Rick advocated the group play along. But seeing that Negan couldn’t be reasoned with, Rick began rallying together other communities affected by the Saviors. And with the support of the Hilltop and Kingdom, they finally have enough fire power to contest the Saviors.

This season, Rick brings “All Out War” to Negan and his forces. The Saviors are larger, better-equipped, and ruthless — but Rick and the unified communities are fighting for the promise of a brighter future. The battle lines are drawn as they launch into a kinetic, action-packed offensive.

Up until now, survival has been the focus of Rick and our group, but it’s not enough. They have to fight to take back their freedom so that they can live. So that they can rebuild. As with any battle, there will be losses. Casualties. But with Rick leading the Alexandrian forces, Maggie leading the Hilltop, and King Ezekiel leading the Kingdom — Negan and the Saviors’ grip on this world may finally be coming to an end.

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