Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa)
- Publisher: E-Line Media
- Developer: Upper One Games
- PC / PlayStation 4 / XBox One, 18 November 2014
- Wii U, 25 June 2015
- Genre: 2D Action/Puzzle
- Players: 1-2 Co-op
- Cost: US$15
Never Alone takes place in the world of the Iñupiat, an Inuit society living in northern Alaska. The heroine of this story is a young Iñupiat lady named Nuna, who goes out hunting one day and gets chased by a polar bear, only to be saved by a white arctic fox, with whom she goes out on adventures of some sort. As you play through their adventures of some sort, you switch control between Nuna and Fox on the fly, as you utilize their differring abilities to solve platforming puzzles and move forward. Nuna can push blocks and, once acquired, throw her bola to hit distant targets, whereas Fox can climb certain walls and call on spirits to serve as platforms. The puzzles are no more complex than in, say, the Lego Star Wars games. A co-operative mode is also available if you have a friend handy.
|Some passages require the abilities of both characters,|
such as Fox making rope spirits appear for Nuna to swing on.
Never Alone is based on lands in the real-world Arctic, so naturally the setting is going to deal with a lot of ice and snow. But, as we learned from Frozen, it is easy to make that sort of thing look pretty. And despite it all, some of the chapters nonetheless manage to stand out in terms of the sites and sights they present. For example, one takes place inside a giant ice whale, and another takes place on a cliffside village during an aurora borealis. Granted, part of the notability of these levels comes from the mechanics they introduce. The ice whale part introduces swimming (in which Nuna and Fox can never drown, as commented on by the narrator... I'm serious), whereas the other level I mentioned features aurora monsters which follow looping paths and must be avoided, lest Nuna and/or Fox suffer death by snatching. So it looks like I've solved the mystery of why each of these levels were memorable despite all of them taking place in the same biome. The soundtrack is ambient and, together with the setting and the relaxed pace of gameplay, does a great job of building the feeling that you are... well, not alone, because that would make a lie out of the title.
|The game's setting is pretty much all ice and snow,|
but some chapters mix things up visually.
At first I was going to liken Never Alone to DLC Quest, in that it's an ordinary 2D platformer buoyed only by its context. But upon further reflection, I think Papo y Yo would be a more fitting comparison. It's simple, relying on just a few mechanics for most of its puzzles, and it's heavily steeped in a foreign culture and presented with great imagination. Either way, it's amazing the difference a little context makes. Without any of the trimmings of its setting, Never Alone would just be another puzzle-platformer with no replay value and not even a lot of first-play value. Also, US$15 is a bit much for an indie game, especially one this short. But if you could take just a couple of hours out of your time to breeze through this game and watch all the Insights, you might just walk away feeling enriched.
+ Puzzle platforming with a patient pace.
+ Unique and distinct level designs, even within the confines of an ice/snow theme.
+ Wonderfully ambient and emotive.
+ The cultural insight videos enrich the story.
- Clumsy controls, especially with computer-controlled characters.
- Only about two hours long, with almost no replay value.
Controls: 2 bolas out of 5
Design: 3 bolas out of 5
Writing: 5 bolas out of 5
Graphics: 4 bolas out of 5
Value: 2 bolas out of 5
The Call: 70% (C+)
The Call: 70% (C+)