By: Brian Gunn
Valley is the latest title from Blue Isle Studios, a developer formerly known for making one of the Slenderman games that were all the rage a couple years ago. This time they aren’t looking to scare you, asking rather, “You know all those pretty walking simulators around? Wouldn’t they be better if, instead of walking, you could run and jump like crazy through them?”
The main things you’ll be doing in Valley are running and jumping, which the game pretty much nails. There’s a wonderful sense of speed, and you’ll be soaring to some ridiculous heights. There’s some light shooting mechanics as well that are on the half-baked side, but they’re not the main attraction anyway.
Even when playing on PC I’d recommend a gamepad if you have one since you don’t really need the accuracy of a mouse and movement feels quite a bit better on an analog stick.
The titular valley is quite a gorgeous sight. Lush green hills and towering trees hide decrepit ruins to explore. Despite fast movement being the main draw, I found myself stopping to gawk at many of the vistas before me. Some of the more industrial areas bring the experience down a little, however, often feeling bland.
There’s a lovely soundtrack in Valley with a surprising range of music that gets you raring to explore and adventure. There are frequent voiceovers as you move forward, and they’re well acted and fit the early 20th century war-time vibe.
Sound effects could use a little more punch though, particularly when you get your double jump. It’s meant to be an add-on to an exoskeleton; I would think a second jump in the air from that hulk would at the very least not be silent. Give me a jet-pack sound or something! Still, that’s a minor quibble.
Valley has players taking on the role of a vague scientist figure that is looking for something called the Lifeseed. It’s one of the magical McGuffins that may either be some miracle or lead to humanity’s doom. Our main character is making one last ditch attempt to find it and ends up in a secluded area full of ancient ruins, bizarre spirit animals and an exoskeleton that would make a parkour runner green with envy.
You see, this valley was discovered before by others looking for the Lifeseed, specifically the military during World War II. They built LEAF suits, which grant those that wear them the ability to leap effortlessly through the air. Oh, and it also makes you immortal, and you can suck the life out of anything and also grant it to anything. But that’s just a minor detail, go jump off that mountain soldier!
Now you’re off to running and jumping your way to solve the mysteries of this quaint land. How has it been uncharted? What happened to the military? Well, thankfully that last one is answered by the bulk of the game’s story elements. What basically amounts to audio logs are constantly triggered as you wander around, giving a window into the history of the valley.
There’s some light puzzle solving, mostly involving that life-stealing ability. You are granted control over life and death, and sometimes that will mean you will have to absorb some poor deer’s essence to power your double jumps.
If you die, which would typically only happen if you manage to jump into a pit, you actually harm the valley itself. Many plants and animals will die. This is a concept that’s kind of wasted, however, as death is rare and there’s enough spare energy cells around to restore life to what you killed fairly easily.
The highlights tend to be when the game gives you a wide open area to track down various objectives as you’ll get to experience the joy of bounding and hopping around. The linear areas tend to be okay, but never shine that well.
There are also some odd design decisions regarding secrets and collectibles that make rooting around in every corner needed, which takes away from the momentum considerably. I found my enjoyment increasing when I decided to ignore those distractions.
Valley is like a light breeze in gaming. It gives you access to glorious superpowers early and lets you freely use them without restrictions for the most part. It is a destination well worth visiting.