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Never Alone Review


Never Alone is quite a rarity to the computer game world, not just because of just how it came about but also because the story itself is so strong. Set in the wild wilderness of the North Alaskan tundra where the Inupait reside and live off the land have been struck by a series of violent and unrelenting blizzards. Unable to leave the safe confines of the village starvation is a strong possibility if not for one brave child Nuna who decides to leave the village in search of the source of the blizzards in hope of stopping them and what comes after turns into one of the most enjoyable independent games I have played in some time.

Though the gameplay is adequate (more on that later) it is the story that is the carrying force of this game, narrated from the words of elder Robert Nasruk Cleveland in the native Inupiat tongue, Never Alone is a story seeped in indigenous Alaskan folklore. As the game grows, the narrators beautiful voice retells the tale he has bound to have heard a thousand times before and now it is leaving the confines of his own village to a much wider audience. With Nuna’s main quest to find the source of the blizzards there are also smaller tales intertwined, starting with the meeting of an Arctic Fox, who, just as Nuna is about to be attacked by a Polar Bear saves her, the two then becoming friends, helping one another across the many perils the land offers from discovering the Little People, journeying into a whale at the bottom of the sea and negotiating the spirits of the Northern Lights. 



Played as a puzzle based platform game Never Alone is best played as two player, one as Nuna and the other as the Fox though you can also play solo, switching between characters with a quick button press, utilising each of their skills to solve the puzzles that block her progression with Nuna able to climb and move certain objects plus early on is gifted a bolo that can be used to smash items whilst Fox is able to climb up higher walls and also commune with the spirits that walk the earth, with these Loons appearing when in close proximity to the Fox, their haunting ethereal bodies creating platforms for Nuna to use. For many , the game mechanics are something they have played plenty of times before, with most of the puzzles not really offering any real challenges but the pace of the game itself really helps this, with each mechanic not really outstaying its welcome, the short episodes each feeling fresh and original.

Visually the game is a joy, managing to set the perfect tone to the story being told, be it the etched style cut scenes or the actual gameplay, with both Nuna and Fox looking and moving with real fluidity, managing to capture both the innocence, the friendship and the peril these two face on their quest.

For the majority of the game I would have pitched this as a must have purchase but then the final chapters occurred, bringing up some crippling faults later in the game and turning the enjoyable experience into one of attrition and frustration, the previously joyful jumping and platform moments turning into a glitch mess, the only way to pass was to replay over and over again until you either fluke it or the game glitches you past the problem. Normally this would have been a turning point in the review to suggest looking elsewhere but it is by the sheer strength of the story alone that pushes the player through to the end, the annoyances overcome to let you see the game to fruition.



Along with a superb story the creation of Never Alone is also unique in how it came about from a collaboration between a the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Upper One Games, keeping the sense of community and responsibility and their ideals alive of the Native Elders and utilising the skills of some of the industry’s best programmers, spreading these wonderful tales to the far reaches of the world.

Never Alone is a short game, taking only a couple of playthroughs to see the end, with the majority of the collectables picked up as you traverse through the game world. These collectables unlock Insights, short video segments detailing the world in which Never Alone is set, explaining the many wonders you witness down to how the Inupiat live their lives; it is a fascinating insight into a world many of us would never have heard about before and for that alone this game deserves plenty of credit.

With talk of fixes to the game coming soon there is little reason not to pick up this fantastic game, be it on your own or with another player the experience is very original, even though you have played these game hundreds of times before.

Words by Ash Buchanan.

(Version Tested: PS4)

Pros

+ Wonderful story
+ Breath-taking visuals

Cons

- The last quarter is a bit messy with control issues


Edited On 24 Nov, 2014

Comments
( 1 )
Bentleyma's avatar
Bentleyma 2 years ago
I enjoyed it, but considering I was able to unlock all the achievements in 2 hours, it should of been cheaper.

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