Never Alone is very unique, an atmospheric puzzle platformer made in partnership with the native Alaskan community that tells the story of a young girl called Nuna and an arctic fox. Nuna’s village is on the brink of starvation following a blizzard and she sets out to find the cause of the blizzard to put an end to it and this transforms into what is a great tale forged from folklore and stories handed down over many generation by Alaskan Native’s as part of E-Line Media’s new “World Game” genre of which Never Alone is the first title.
The developer Upper One Games is made up of many industry veterans from titles such as the Tomb Raider series, MechWarrior, SOCOM and various id titles, a studio with plenty of experience which shows in the game. Something I like to comment on is the art style and aesthetics which has a nice cartoony tint to them when getting up close to the characters but from afar its a nice looks game which really captures the look of snow location in which Never Alone takes place in. Along with that there are also nice effects such as how the wind sweeps across the screen or the subtle hills in the background and the cut-scenes have a nice style to them as well. The narration in the game is done in the local dialect with translated subtitles as well which is another nice touch for presentation.
I found Never Alone to be a game of the first two-thirds and the final third if im completely honest. It’s a game that I really liked and found to be quite intrigued to play, the story is a bit different, it has “Cultural Insight” videos which are unlocked as you go through the story (if you find the owls) and these are documentary style videos discussing different aspects of the game, particular people, items or settings and give some background on various aspects of the culture Never Alone is based on, the videos aren’t particularly long and are nice to watch as I really did find the setting interesting.
Controlling Nuna and the fox is quite simple in single player with Y used to change between the two or you can play it in local co-op which with a competent co-op player could make some of the later sections a little easier. The 8 chapters are made up of various puzzles and some chasing sequences which split it up quite nicely, I liked the pacing of the game overall, it felt like I really was in a story that was unfolding nicely as I got through each section.
I said earlier the game was split into two for me with the first two thirds and the final third, I don’t want to spoil the game so I won’t go into too much detail but I just felt that it moved into puzzles that were reliant on doing things too quickly and it didn’t really fit with how the rest of the game was played, a difficulty spike I wasn’t really expecting and made it quite frustrating in places, I wasn’t really expecting the change from what had been up to that point been a lovely and fairly smooth experience for me. It wasn’t a big problem for me and Never Alone still retained the charm that I felt it had in the beginning, it was just the later sections didn’t feel quite as good.
The way the story unfolds is a lovely story about Nuna and the fox but also about why she’s gone out exploring in the first place, Nuna doesn’t particularly evolve as a character throughout the story, it’s about her struggle to solve the blizzard crisis that is engulfing her village and about the elders passing down wisdom and tackling the problems she faces and overcoming them, a story about the partnership of Nuna and the fox.
Theres a lovely and charming puzzle game here, the sections are fun, puzzles are challenging without being overly complex and well put together, it tells an interesting and fun story in a setting that is quite different to me. For a first instalment in the “world game” genre it really is a great opening to what will hopefully be many stories and if they can keep the atmosphere and flowing feeling as you progress that Never Alone offers then I think it will be a great series. I really did enjoy it a lot and found it something that was a bit different to the other game I’ve been playing recently and a nice change of pace.
Never Alone is well worth playing and experiencing!
Formats: Xbox One (played), Playstation 4, PC
Developer: Upper One Games
Publisher: E-Line Media