‘Never Alone’ developed by ‘Upper One Games’ is conceptually a very interesting little game that presents its story and setting in a way that I haven’t encountered before, unfortunately though it’s the actual gameplay that lets the game down and ultimately left unsatisfied with my time in the game.
‘Never Alone’ sees you playing as a young Inuit girl who with the help of a young white fox cub must save her village from an unrelenting blizzard that threatens her whole way of life. In this side scrolling puzzle plat-former you and your AI buddy (can be played cooperatively with a friend) must traverse some varied and interesting environments to reach your end goal but these environments, though interesting to explore and look at are extremely frustrating to play through and you’ll quickly realise that the tasks set before you are becoming very similar to the ones you had already done previously. Too often would I enter a new area and have a plat-forming puzzle in front of me to solve, do so and be left annoyed and completely uninterested in what I had just done. Not once did the puzzles ever feel fun or give me that feeling of satisfaction after conquering them, I just continued on with the journey. The puzzle segments are split up by chase sequences which left me with the same feelings as the puzzle segments, uninterested and annoyed.
The two characters that you follow along with on the journey to save the village are not much better either. Both are the silent protagonist types and the personality is sorely missing from both. I was expecting to care deeply for my little fox cub friend and to be desperate to see the little Inuit girl complete her journey and save her village but to be honest, by the end of the game I couldn’t have cared less what happened to either, I had no emotional attachments for either character which only made it more difficult to keep moving forward with the game. In fact more often than not I was just annoyed with the two characters, this is mainly down to the fact that you have the ability to switch back and forth between both of them so as to find different ways of completing the puzzles, this meant that I had to rely on the AI to pick up the slack and boy did that not happen. Not only did your control over the characters need to be tighter but also the AI’s ability to keep up with you and support you in some of the more intense moments of the game as well and it just wasn’t there.
Now not everything in the game was a let-down. There was one aspect to the game that I found to be really enjoyable and insightful and that is the way in which the game presents the story. The game takes its inspiration from interviews, old video footage and pictures from the Inuit people, specifically the ‘Inupiat’ people. So during the game you will come across owls and these signify that you have unlocked another one of the mini episodes detailing the many aspects of Inuit life, this is mainly done with interviews with people of the Inupiat, who will talk about their culture and beliefs and what drives them forward as a people. I found these to be fascinating and a pleasant distraction from the game. I was at first worried that these videos would become intrusive and distract me from playing the game (they are optional in if you want to view them or not) but very quickly did I start to enjoy them more, it really was an interesting idea to have the real world stories of the Inupiat people be told to me through the medium of a video game and it was also enjoyable that a lot of the places you traverse in the game and the other worldly type entities in the game all spawn from the folklore and stories of the Inupiat people. I absolutely how this was all handled and it is something that I would like to see done more in games.
Sadly ‘Never Alone’ was a let-down. Its gameplay is repetitive and in no way fun to play. My attachment to the characters was non-existent and the only thing that kept me playing was for the chance to learn more about the Inuit people and their way of life and even though I enjoyed that aspect immensely I don’t think it is enough for me to recommend this game to other people.