BY: DEVONTE GRIFFITHS
With the growing complexity of game creation and the numerous advanced concepts that come with it, it’s fairly easy to dismiss a game that thrives on simplicity. Never Alone is an atmospheric puzzle-platformer created by indigenous members of several Iñupiat tribes. The creators were well-aware of the fact that they wouldn’t make a game that sets the world on fire so they did the opposite.
The main story revolves around a young Iñupiat girl named Nuna who goes on a journey to help her village after it suffers from several blizzards. On her way, she encounters an arctic fox that can communicate with beings from the spirit realm. These spirit creatures are mainly inspired from scrimshaw carvings from Alaskan native tribes. Scrim-shaw paintings also had a large influence on the cut scenes interspersed throughout the game, focusing less on the words narrated and more on the actions performed.
The game purveys an aesthetic of simplicity for its graphics. The graphics use a very simple and appealing cartoony art style which complements the game’s mixture of two-dimensional drawings with three-dimensional objects. The game tells the majority of its story without dialogue, mainly conveying parts of the story through small interactions with your fox companion and characters met along the way.
The main gameplay revolves utilizing the abilities of both Nuna and her fox in order to progress. Never Alone is best enjoyed with two players each controlling one of the characters. If you are playing alone, then you can alternate be-tween both of the characters. Though cooperative play is preferable, playing alone is a viable choice. The game’s puzzles are a bit overly simplistic with numerous ones not requiring much effort to complete. The game gets a bit tough near the end but by the time those are done, the game is over.
The main issues arise from how the game handles its controls. The jump and movement controls are standard but, later on you are given a bola to break objects. This bola’s controls are very inconsistent and hard to get used to. It works fine within confined spaces, but fails immensely when used during chase sequences or enemy encounters. Never Alone is also inconsistent with how Nuna clings to walls. She clings naturally on walls most of the time but every once in a while, she misses an obvious grab for a nearby platform, which results in the player having to start over.
As the game progresses, the player unlocks optional videos detailing the history of Never Alone’s creation and how it ties into the Inupiaq culture. There are numerous hidden collectible owls in the game that unlock more videos. These videos do a tremendous job in giving context to certain events and items which may seem unknown to people who are unfamiliar to Eskimo culture.
The game doesn’t strive to tell a long story. It only takes about two hours to complete which is a bit short for $15. Though there are a few technical issues, I still recommend Never Alone as it’s a game that has a heartfelt story, an intriguing development history and a focus on a culture that is rarely explored in media.