Never Alone is a newly released indie puzzle platformer recently released for the PS4. On the surface, the game appears to be fairly typical for the genre, but dig a little deeper and you find that it has a very unique perspective, and interesting changes to gameplay make this a wonderful and very intriguing experience.
In Never Alone you take control of two characters, a young Alaskan girl called Nuna who is on a quest to save her village, and an arctic fox she befriends at the beginning of her journey. The game can be played either solo or co-op, with each character featuring unique abilities that need to be used together to surpass all of the obstacles in your way. Nuna has the ability to more directly interact with the environment; with the ability to smash ice with her bola, drag crates and swing from ropes, whereas the fox is able to interact with the spirits that exist in the Alaskan wild; coaxing them into helping them pass obstacles that would otherwise have proved impossible for Nuna alone. The gameplay feels slightly sluggish at times, with many of the controls feeling very vague, particularly the aiming of the Bola which can be extremely imprecise. For the most part the sluggishness doesn’t get in the way of your progress, but there are occasions where you have to move forward in a hurry, and doing so without a co-op partner or foreknowledge of what you need to do is highly unlikely.
Alone you are able to switch between the two characters at any time, in a similar fashion to the classic Lost Vikings or more recent Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. The character you are not controlling will follow behind you and more often than not adequately performs actions without need of your control, but on occasion you will find certain tasks much more demanding than they should be due to uncooperative AI. There are a number of puzzles where both characters need to use their abilities in a time sensitive manner, but swapping characters often causes the other to stop whatever you had them doing which can cause a few irritating failures. On the other hand there are a number of moments where one player will find themselves largely without anything to do, instead simply following behind their partner waiting for a puzzle to appear where they can have more impact. This begins to happen more frequently towards the end of the game, but thankfully most puzzles are so fast that you will never have one player feeling useless for too long a period.
By far the most engaging aspect of the game is the unique setting and influences of the story. The story told in the game is actually a well-known tale amongst Alaskan natives and is narrated entirely in the native language. All elements of the game; characters, setting and even gameplay are inspired directly from Alaskan folklore and mythology which offers insights quite possibly never before seen in a game and very rarely seen in any other medium. This is amplified by the excellent inclusion of unlockable short documentaries that explain the influences in more detail. These videos are not only informative but are shockingly well produced and give a deeper context for many of the things seen throughout the game.
Never Alone is a perfect example of what I love about indie games. A fairly simple platformer that offers a very unique insight into a culture and it’s mythology that I have never seen expressed in a game before. With it’s influences seeded deeply within Native Alaskan culture, telling a story well known to it’s residents and full of references to their mythology and folk tales. Though the gameplay has issues and the balance between single player and co-op is at times troublesome, what the unique insights into another culture that the game has to offer and the charming story told make it more than worth playing through.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game.
- Replay Value