In contrast with other games, Never Alone’s setting is what sets it apart from its peers. Based on Iñupiat (Inuit) folklore, this endearing Alaskan tale sees Nuna, a brave young girl villager, venture into the harsh cold snowy wilderness to discover the source of a never-ending blizzard. Upon embarking on this adventure Nuna comes across an arctic fox who quickly becomes her companion.
The bond between Nuna and the fox is what really draws gamers in. Many of my favourite companion games often involve little to no dialogue, yet the relationship is transparent and true. Never Alone’s relationship is up there with the likes of Another World, Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons and ICO. Both the fox and Nuna rely on each other, and their unspoken friendship can resonate to even the most steely heart.
Never Alone is a side scrolling platformer were both Nuna and the arctic fox have their own unique abilities to aid each other across the various perils before them. The fox is incredibly quick and can claw his way up vertical walls, whilst Nuna can push objects and fire her Bola. Players can either switch between characters or can play co-operatively, which I personally found to be a joy as both players need to work in tandem to solve the puzzles. It is clear from the offset that there is something special about this fox as the ‘ancient spirits’ hidden within the snow react to the fox’s presence. The spirits themselves often act as moving platforms but only move in the direction of the fox, who acts as a magnet, making player co-operation imperative. This co-op play style can be likened to games such as The Cave, but unfortunately the puzzles never really exert the braincells.
Never Alone is also incredibly short. Just when the game feels like it is hitting its stride and that puzzles are becoming slightly more challenging, the game begins to draw to a close. This can leave players feeling short-changed on all the abilities they have only just acquired, especially as the game is incredibly linear. However, Never Alone’s length doesn’t affect the games’ narrative. The beautiful, yet cute, art style infused with the delicate and sweet fairytale storytelling make Never Alone a very touching and heart warming experience, which was a joy from start to finish. I’ll let you decide whether Never Alone’s length is an issue or whether it is simply ensuring that the game doesn’t over stay its welcome.
Another wonderful inclusion are the short documentary videos you can discover in the game. Whilst most gamers skip such videos these are truly worth a watch. They give real insights to the Iñupiat way of life, their folklore and the ever-changing environment in which they live. The videos were both educational and moving, but also helped establish how authentic Never Alone is to the source material.
Never Alone may be short, simplistic and linear, yet its endearing story telling and co-op puzzle solving (no matter how straightforward) make the game a joy to play. This is the first title from Upper One Games & E-Line Media, and whilst the game is not exactly groundbreaking there is just enough to hold your attention and walk away feeling that little bit richer. Twinstick Gaming look forward to future titles from this developer as they aim to bring more ‘indigenous’ based titles to the forefront. Luckily for PS4 owners, Never Alone is FREE this month as part of the Instant Games Collection.