Blue Isle’s Valley is finally out – the highly anticipated second game from the developer gets the review treatment on Xbox One.
The first game developed by Blue Isle, Slender, has become a bit of a cult classic. Simple in concept and unique in its execution, it’s one of those indie games that has sparked a trend of developers trying to copy the formula. The game came out almost three years ago, and in that time Blue Isle has been developing Valley, a vastly different yet still unique experience.
You wouldn’t immediately think so upon starting the game though, as you start out exploring a cave – an environment with plenty of opportunities to provide the kinds of the scares that Slender did. This doesn’t take long though, because after you study a few cave drawings you soon exit the cave and get to behold a large and colorful valley. The environment looks and feels beautiful and alive, with birds flying overhead and trees rocking back and forth in the wind.
This tranquility soon makes way for action, when you find something called the L.E.A.F. suit – an exoskeleton that gives you special powers kind of like the exoskeletons in the Crysis games. In Valley, your most important skills will be additional speed and jumping power – two attributes you frequently use outside of those first few minutes before the discovery of the suit.
The suit also has a third power, as it allows you to manipulate life and death – which sounds a lot more impactful than the game ends up making it. In most of the game, the ability to extract life force from object – though it sounds cool – feels redundant due to the ease with which energy orbs can also just be picked up from the environment. The latter stages do add more depth to this skill, but it feels like there’s some wasted potential there.
This definitely isn’t true for running and jumping, because exploring the valley feels great and is an experience that becomes better as the game progresses and you unlock more skills. It doesn’t have the verticality of a game like Mirror’s Edge, but what it does have is perhaps an ever greater freedom of movement that makes wearing the L.E.A.F. suit an empowering experience.
The game gradually details a storyline as well, told through notes that are scattered across the valley. It’s an interesting story about technology and power – which is of course echoed in the game you’re playing. The game isn’t terribly long and can be completed in under five hours – and part of that is stretched by some indoor sections where you’re not as free to move around as you are inside the valley itself. These sections aren’t the game’s best parts, but they do break up what might have otherwise become a short-lived adventure – so we totally understand the design choices made there.
Valley is a vastly different game than Slender, and a far more beautiful one as well. Although Slender never really captivated me beyond the core concept that could be enjoyed in a short sitting, Valley kept me engrossed for the full duration of the campaign. It’s definitely more mainstream than Blue Isle’s first game, but still has a unique feel to it – which makes it a solid recommendation.