State Of Xen: A Story About My Uncle

'Say 'uncle!' 'Uncle.' Oh, that was disappointingly brief.'

Ooh, what’s this in my wheezing inbox? Why, it’s a free first-person platformer from Sweden, made in the Unreal Development Kit, promising fun with a grappling hook within a dramatic, otherwordly landscape. I like it already. I liked A Story About My Uncle even more once I’d played it.

A 400MB download gets you something that makes up for what it lacks in any graphical options whatsoever (even resolution, grr) with ingenuity and a certain atmosphere. What with its initially people-free world, hand-based magi-gun, leaping tall buildings in a single-bound and unseen narrator, it’s hard not to cry ‘Portal’ at it, but A Story About My Uncle is very specifically and very openly about jumping rather than spatial manipulation.

There are three key powers – powerjump (up, up and away!), powerleap (er, forward, forward and away) and the grappling hook (whee!), which are combined in assorted forms to navigate your way across an unearthly world of giant floating rocks and strange runes. From a staccato start it rapidly escalates into flying through the air with the greatest of ease, lauching an energy hook into an orbiting boulder then pinging off that onto a far distant ledge. It’s Half-Life’s Xen, if Half-Life’s Xen wasn’t incredibly frustrating but did have a grappling hook.

The narration, concerning the exploration of a strange land in pursuit of the titular lost uncle, is a bit hit and miss and could do with more vim and vigour. Then again, let’s not be churlish – this is a free student project and at least the voiceover doesn’t actively irritate, as did the vaguely similar (but far more ambitious, of course) Quantum Conundrum’s on occasion. I dig this more than QC, I think, even if the comparison is admittedly a forced one.

Narration, and occasionally imprecise-feeling controls aside, A Story About My Uncle is a confident, rewarding slice of puzzle-action. It’s often claimed that first-person platforming is inherently flawed, but A Story About My Uncle demonstrates that if you can get scale, momentum and flexibility of solution in the bag, you can do great things.

Haven’t finished it yet as a thousand other tasks call, but I’m confident in recommending it based on what I’ve played so far. Download it for free from here, and find out more about the Södertörns University team who made it here.

Oh, and if you want to change the resolution, you’ll need to search for “resx=” and “resy=” in defaultengine.ini and/or (I haven’t worked out which one actually does it) UDKengine.ini inside the UDKGame/Config folder where you extracted the game too.


  1. JackDandy says:

    Neat, always wanted to try something like this.

  2. Shiri says:

    Does “no graphical options” also include no windowed mode?

  3. misterT0AST says:

    The title sounds a bit silly.

  4. MOKKA says:

    Very, very nice. There are definately not enough First Person Games with Grappling Hooks out there.

    • Phantoon says:

      There just plain aren’t enough games with grappling hooks, in general.

  5. BrendanJB says:

    I will play and love any game with a grappling hook in it. Downloading now.

  6. HairySammoth says:

    No invert mouse? In the year of our lord 2012? It’s like a knife to the heart, every time.

    Found a way to fudge it though – add the line “bInvertMouse=true” to the section called [Engine.PlayerInput] in the file DefaultInput.ini and/or UDKInput.ini (not sure which one it was that did the trick).

    One day, all games will have this option easily available. Only then will we be free.

  7. ResonanceCascade says:

    I always thought this would make a great premise for a game. Even outlined pretty much this exact same thing on a dev forum a few years back. Glad to see someone else agreed!

  8. sirdavies says:

    This was awesome. Thanks, RPS.

  9. BubuIIC says:

    Wow, this is really well polished for an university project and quite fun to play!
    Thanks for the tip, Alec!

  10. The Army of None says:

    Really good! Enjoyed it quite a bit. Thanks for the heads up :)

  11. anotherman7 says:

    This is leaps and bounds beyond most student games.

  12. PenGunn says:

    I hate grappling hooks. The reason rocket jumping died in Q2 was the stupid grapple. In honor of the incredible Quake and, to a lesser extent, Quake 2 rocket jumping I refuse to play any game with a grapple.

  13. Pemptus says:

    Well fantastic. I was a good 20 minutes into the sanctuary enjoying it greatly when I pressed esc and, seeing an alluring “menu” option I pressed m. Who knows what options awaited me – an FOV slider? A basic option to change the resolution? Maybe even a possibility of INVERTING THE BLOODY MOUSE LOOK? Who knew?

    Of course, instead of the getting an options screen I got booted to the main menu, loosing my progress. Fuck this game, I muttered.

    …Seriously, the things developers do to make me say “fuck it” baffle me to this day. It’s the little things, you know?

    • Xzi says:

      And if it were a paid game by an an actual game development studio, I’d agree with you. But I’d be much more hesitant to critique a university project that is offered up for free. Granted, if they ever want to sell a product based on a similar concept, they’ll need to add in all the bells and whistles we expect from a PC game. But I’m sure they’re probably aware of that already.

  14. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    Finally tried this out and it’s a blast, up until the part where the difficulty just goes through the roof. Yes, timed jumps when a giant eye is sending light tornadoes your way is exactly what I wanted, glad you figured that one out, developers.

  15. ericzhu says:

    After watching the Blade and soul video ,I think Blade and soul is so amazing.Just as the bns news said, the game style is so beautiful.The game players will be attracted by the balde and soul artworks.