“Dad?” A young girl asks her father.
“Aren’t you sleeping yet?” The father replies. “It’s time for bed honey.”
“Dad, I can’t sleep. Can you tell me a bedtime story?”
The father acquiesces. “All right. What do you want to hear?”
“Something, something about an adventure.”
“Hmm, I think I know just the thing.”
Thus the story of Uncle Fred unfolds and his nephew’s adventure to find his lost whereabouts.
Set in an unknown era, a young lad — whose name, interestingly enough, isn’t mentioned at all in the game — visits his uncle’s home to see if he has returned from his latest adventure. This uncle — by the name of Fred — is a magnificent inventor of sorts, and, as such, has been able to travel to all kinds of places: Kilimanjaro, Nepal, the Galapagos Islands, and even the Amazon river. This time around, however, Uncle Fred left without notice, and as his nephew explores his home, he discovers he still hasn’t returned.
Upstairs in the home, the unnamed narrator and nephew finds an unlocked locker with a technologically-advanced suit in it. It looks just like the one Uncle Fred uses, only smaller. Eager to try it on, the boy equips himself, mentioning that ‘it fit like it had been custom-made for him.’ This is where you, as the player, see the narrator’s hand in first-person (with a blue bandage towards the tip of his ring finger), and it will be the only part of his body that you’ll see throughout the game; you won’t get to see what he looks like.
Further up the house lies the observatory. This is where Uncle Fred keeps all of his experiments, and within the center of the room there is a pad that makes for a garbage disposal. Curiosity gets to the better of the child, even though his uncle has warned him in the past not to touch anything, and he activates a switch. The boy moves to the pad, the dome to the observatory opens, and suddenly, he gets launched, mysteriously appearing in an alternate reality and crashing into a forest-themed world. Thanks to the suit, he doesn’t get hurt.
Now the stage is set for the rest of the game: with the features of the suit, jump across lengthy gaps, grapple your way from one island to another, and try to not fall to your death as you make your way across various worlds in search of your lost uncle. It’s a very short-lived experience — two-and-a-half hours at most — but at the same time delivers a thrilling tale as the narrator, father, and nephew explains to his young daughter what he witnessed as he looked for Uncle Fred.
The game is set in first-person and most of your time will be spent in the air, grappling onto a rock with the suit’s technology and pulling yourself upwards, letting the inertia take you higher up as you grapple onto the next rock, or grappling onto a windmill and waiting for the right time to let go before grappling on to the next object. As you progress, you’ll unlock upgrades for your suit, being able to grapple more than once in the air, and even thrust yourself forward with rocket boots. (Interestingly enough, charging up the suit will cause the orb in the character’s hand to glow, making the same sound effect as when you’re hovering between different options in Steam’s Big Picture Mode.) The nostalgic environments might very well relax you. You might also get frustrated that you pushed the analog stick on your gamepad a little too far, causing you to miss your ride and therefore having to start over from the last checkpoint. Either way, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment once you’ve made it to the next patch of ground, as the narrator once again reveals to his daughter his thoughts and feelings about what he’s going through.
Timing is very critical, as often you’ll be transferring yourself between different objects that move. Not only this, but letting go of the object you’re grappling to at the right time is also key. Let go too soon, and you won’t have enough inertia to carry the character over to the next platform. Let go too late, and you’ll probably hit the rock and lose a ton of momentum. It starts out easy, and fortunately for us the difficulty doesn’t spike up too quickly; I found that it increases at a quite even pace throughout the game.
You’ll come across strange-looking creatures — almost aliens — throughout the nephew’s adventure, the first of which he meets is a girl named Madeleine. Despite her blue, alien-like skin and orange eyes, she happily introduces herself and her people to him once he makes it to her village. Strangely enough, they can understand the boy’s mother tongue and speak in kind. Madeleine says she might be able to help him find his uncle, and therefore accompanies him on his travels, piggy-backing on him. The suit somehow makes her feel weightless. Later on, he discovers that she actually had a different idea in mind, but forgives her after forming such a close bond with her, and the young lad continues his journey on his own.
The game ran at a good sixty frames-per-second well throughout the time I played it on maximum graphics settings. The Linux port is rather solid, as I never experienced any crashes and my Xbox controller worked just fine. I found that the character occasionally looks downward — I’m not sure if that’s a problem with my controller or the game itself. Other than that, I have no complaints. Here’s some gameplay footage:
And that’s the story about Uncle Fred. It’s a very intriguing tale, with phenomenal voice-acting, and a game that should be safe enough for your kid to play. Take a stab at it if you want to listen to a good story.