GAME NAME: The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo
DEVELOPER(S): Michael Lutz
GENRE(S): Interactive Fiction, Horror
RELEASE DATE(S): 10/15/2014
Browser games are an interesting medium. Generally, they don’t need a publisher – just a website and someone to make the game. This gives most of these types of games the creative freedom to really be something unique and interesting. The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo is one of these.
The game is delivered as a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style interactive narrative. You’re staying with your friend – you know, the one with the uncle who works for Nintendo, so he or she has all the cool stuff – when you’re told the uncle will be showing up tonight. What happens next is up to you, in six different forms. Gender choice for your friend also plays a role in how events unfold, since the game shoehorns in some #gamergate issues as well to no discernable degree of effectiveness. Although making your friend a girl speeds the last few playthroughs along, the rest of the “gender in videogames” issue has little bite behind it. But anyway. The game continues as a sort of mystery/spooky game, until the final reveal, which changes (or in one case may not even happen) based on your decisions. Effective writing propels the story along, while the minimalist graphics and clever use of sound close the deal and deliver on the interesting endings.
Horror games are a tough sell. By and large as game players, we’re all after the experience and the ending – and once we figure out the tropes that a game throws at you, it stops being scary. Remember the first hour or so of Dead Space, followed by the rest of it? That first part was outright scary, while the rest of the game you just zapped monsters in the legs. As a straightforward horror game, The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo fails on its first three or so playthroughs. Once we realize we’ll be inundated with creepy sounds and off-putting visuals, we’re just clicking red text to get to an ending. But give the game a few days. Stew on it in a dark, empty room in the middle of the night. Remember staying at your friends’ house in middle school, and the weird uneasiness it made you feel. Going to the kitchen at 2AM and meeting some other member of the family there – was there anything weirder than that? Play the game a few more times, shoot for endings 4 through 6. That’s where the real interesting stuff comes in.
This is not a game with jump scares or skinless dogs. The horror comes from the weird, supernatural strangeness of the events that unfold. The well-written script gives subtle, eery hints as to what has happened before and may continue happening without intervention. Read closely – hiding in the bathroom where everything has changed to just vague shapes, instead of their original forms. Ask why your friend’s brother isn’t in any family photos. What was your friend’s dad drinking…? It’s very subtle, but extremely effective in its delivery. The audio cues add tremendous weight as well. Though its presence is sparse, the sound effects are delivered with such deliberate use that it very well may make your skin crawl. As for the spoken lines, some of them would would certainly make an interesting outgoing voicemail message. The graphics are sparing and alien, with only a few static images that relate closely to what is happening. Rooms, a house, and a few other identifiables are present, along with toothy corridors, odd-angled lines, and high-contrast geometric shapes. There’s not much to it, but the minimalism is sharp and effective here.
This has been a short one – intentionally so – to keep the player in the dark as much as possible about the content of this game. The whole experience, six endings, and some heavy reading, should take no more than an hour. It’s definitely worth your time, and the exactly zero dollars it costs to play.
The Uncle Who Works For Nintendo can be found here. There’s a video ad with sound before the game starts, so keep your headphones off until it’s time to go to your friend’s house.