By Dean Moses
Game: Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna)
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows/Mac OS [Coming to Wii U in June]
Rated: E for Everyone
Cost: Free for PlayStation Plus Users [$14.99 for other consoles]
The PlayStation 4 was released in November of 2013. That should have left ample time for developers to make plenty of local co-op games for you and your friends to play. However, most of the titles being churned out are focused on online play, leaving the age-old game of human contact in the dust. Thankfully, Never Alone, a free game for all PlayStation Plus members, puts couch co-op at the forefront of its experience.
A Tale of Two Friends
The story is rather simple yet brilliantly told. The game opens with an Iñupiat village being pounded by a harsh, arctic storm. Worried about the safety of her family, a young girl called Nuna sets off to find the source of the blizzard in hopes of stopping it. Soon after she leaves, she comes in contact with a massive polar bear that unfortunately sees the young girl as breakfast. But, just when all prospect of escape seems lost, a tiny Arctic fox leaps out of nowhere to her rescue. The little fellow distracts the hungry beast and saves the girl, starting an unbreakable bond. And thus begins the journey of two different species that became friends and work together to save the day and each other.
A Story Told by its People
When you find these feathered creatures, videos will unlock, these videos showcase interviews with the Iñupiat, an Alaska Native people. Through these visual essays you, your family and friends can learn more about how the Iñupiat tell their stories, what animals, like the Arctic fox, means to them and more about their culture. You will find yourself examining each level in hopes of finding more owls, so in turn, you can find out more about these interesting people. Also, the narrative of the game is told in their native tongue. Subtitles will help you understand the story, but if you play long enough you may even pick up a few phrases.
Alone or Together
Never Alone can be a single player experience or a co-op one. One player will play as Nuna while the other will play as the fox, or, if you decide to play alone, you can switch between the two. The pair will face many obstacles throughout the game, which includes fierce enemies that try to hurt the two friends, collapsing bridges and falling ice blocks, glacial water that will freeze Nuna and the fox as soon as they touch the liquid, along with many more hurdles that will hinder Nuna’s goal. However, each character has their very own unique skills and abilities that will aid them along the way. Nuna can push and pull boxes, allowing them to reach otherwise unreachable areas. She can also throw her bola, a weapon that can destroy obstructions in their way. These talents are not good enough by themselves though, she needs her pet fox to call upon its sprit friends. Those ghostly apparitions can carry Nuna away from harm and save her from almost certain death.
A Wasteland of Glitches
While the game can certainly be fun and marvelously educational, there are still a few problems that keep this good game from being great. While being chased by an evil character bent on hurting our two heroes, Nuna may suddenly start loating, leaving you unable to control her. Similarly, Nuna may be jumping when she falls through a wall and down into the icy wastes below. This kind of thing is forgivable, but not when it happens as often as it does. I found myself trying to jump onto a platform for over ten minutes, each time falling through the stage like her body was made up of water.
Never Alone is a beautiful game about beautiful people, which is ideal to play with a loved one, just be wary if you plan on playing it with a young child due to sad story sections. It has a few technical hiccups, but seeing as it is free during the month of April for PlayStation Plus players, one cannot complain. I suggest downloading it while you can.
Photos: Screenshots from Never Alone