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Game Info:

Valley
Developed by: Blue Isle Studios
Published by: Blue Isle Studios
Release date: March 7, 2019
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, macOS, Linux
Genre: RPG Platformer
Number of players: Single player
ESRB Rating:T for Blood and Violence
Price: $19.99

Thank you, Blue Isle Studios, for sending us a review key!

The central appeal of Valley is the fantasy of running down a ski jump faster than humanly possible, leaping off, and landing safely. Walking on walls, a grapple gun, and more sweeten the pot over time. For certain people, myself included, that is enough to spark interest. If that's you, let me tell you now: Valley delivers. Until the last moment of the game, it lets you run down hills, launch onto mountainsides, and leap through the trees. Indoor and underground sections do not feel confining. The more typical woodland environment is visually interesting and freeing. Though Valley doesn't provide strong motivation to replay levels, it satisfies while it lasts. Valley is not the ideal first-person 3D platformer, but it's a good one.

The player character of Valley is a modern archaeologist who enters a little-mapped valley and stumbles upon the old WWII exosuit which facilitates the game. The L.E.A.F. suit is the type of tech that provides such wondrous services that one might ask how it remained an obscure prototype. This exosuit gives the wearer super speed, super jumping, and control over life and death. The game introduces that last out-of-place feature about as abruptly as I did. It's central to the story, less so to the gameplay. The story centers on the experiments run in this valley in pursuit of what might be a spoiler. A scientist has a large ego; a scientist concludes that the project's reach exceeds its grasp; things explode. It's well-done, if not very creative. More creative are the spirit-like wisps who wander the valley along with their taller, more deadly cousins called Wendigo who eventually become enemies. The in-game Slenderman poster is merely an Easter egg from the developers of Slender: The Arrival; in return, the game provides a surprising end-game boss in tune with the slowly building horror atmosphere.

Valley
Highlights:

Strong Points: Pretty and varied environments; steady supply of new mobility abilities; lots of opportunity to run and jump freely
Weak Points: Certain abilities are a hassle but necessity to use; exploration off the main path is unevenly rewarded; can be too easy
Moral Warnings: Some swearing; Blood splatter and human skeletal remains; Wendigo myth and cannibalism referenced; Ghost-like enemies; Ritual locations including a shrine implied to be used for human sacrifice

Limited energy powers grappling, double-jumping, and bolts of light used to pacify enemies. Taking damage from enemies siphons energy. Taking damage while out of energy, falling into water, or falling into holes kills the player character. This is where the power over life and death comes in. The player revives nearby, but the valley starts to die. Trees wilt and animals die. The L.E.A.F. suit allows life to be taken from or given to the environment in exchange for energy. If the valley runs out of life energy, it's a game over. The game motivates life-giving with golden acorns needs to unlock extra areas which often contain audio logs and suit upgrades. Bringing trees and animals back to life also effectively provides extra lives for the player. It's a neat mechanic. I was at risk of a game over maybe twice, both times due to poor handling of the grapple gun. The game provides enough energy pickups to allow most life to be restored, either for acorns or for the player's own satisfaction. On Switch, at least, the graphics are good enough to make valley restoration satisfying. The environments are varied, though not very detailed.

The star of the show is the L.E.A.F. suit's mobility capabilities. The hills, rocks, and ruins in the valley provide plenty of fodder for running and jumping. I have no idea if the gravity is realistic. It feels weighty without being oppressive. Running straight through the level without taking detours is fun and rarely challenging. Some areas were explicitly built by the in-game creators of the suit to train with it. The artificiality of ramps and tree platforms does not hamper the joy of jumping around. The grapple gun does not feel as good to use as I would hope, but when it works, it works. Walking on walls can feel disorienting, but leaping over a chasm and attaching to the side of the opposite wall feels awesome. There are a few more abilities, all delightful. The game is more creative with indoor space than I expected, sometimes taking advantage of very obvious uses for the L.E.A.F. suit that make sense both for the story and the gameplay.

The game is not as good at filling empty spaces in levels. Early on Valley makes clear that the player would do well to gather acorns and small gears. Sometimes they are on the side of the path; often they are tucked onto higher cliffs. I wish exploring the levels was rewarded more often, especially since I must stop the more-enjoyable running in order to do it. To gather all the collectible gears, levels must be revisited with abilities gained in later levels. I was not very excited to do so after gathering all upgrades; mostly I just wanted to play through the levels again while ignoring collectibles.

Valley
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 74%
Gameplay - 18/20
Graphics - 15/10
Sound - 7/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 80%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 6/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

Valley's story unwraps over time; its gameplay is much more straightforward. For me, the game mechanics are deeply and viscerally appealing. The story mostly elicited feelings that it was better than it needed to be. It's also scarier than it seems at first. The Wendigo can pop out of nowhere to rush the player. They do not eat the player as do the Wendigo of real-life myth, but sometimes the player will find skeletons of those who were less fortunate. Ruins and audio logs suggest that certain areas used to be used for human sacrifice. One of the pits the player can fall into and die has something supernatural and full of teeth at the bottom. Next to the gore, the occasional swearing in audio logs is probably a minor concern. The voice acting is decent. The music can be thrilling but is more often merely passable.

The Switch is probably not the best platform for Valley. The console’s power seems to limit graphics and framerate. If it's the only option available or if portability is desired, Valley on Switch is still worth it. The game is fun throughout. At maybe six to eight hours it was not long, nor did I find it too short. If running and diving through trees interests you, I recommend you try Valley.

About the Author

Sam George

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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