Upper One Games – E Line Media – Wii U (also available on PC, Xbox One & PS4)
Never Alone is a different kind of platformer. A game it may be, but this is a game that is made in collaboration with the Inupiat, native to Alaska. It tells of a story that has been shared across generations of Inupiat, telling the tale of a young native girl, Nuna, accompanied by an Arctic Fox, in an effort to save her village from a terrible blizzard. With so much history and tradition squeezed into Never Alone, you unlock short films as you progress, explaining why that part of the game features certain elements and environments. In essence, it’s part game, part documentary. It’s a cooperative platformer where you have to rely on both characters to make any progress, and you pick up the attachment and bond between Nuna and the fox pretty much straight away. The game boasts beautiful visuals with wonderfully arty scenes and sound and some gorgeous animation style. It reminds in part of Child of Light. It’s side scrolling and has a beautiful/tragic atmosphere which conjures conflicting emotions. What you’re going through is quite harrowing yet everything around you is a wonder to behold. There are certain points in the game that are just heartbreaking, particularly if one of the characters gets killed by falling off a ledge or gets caught by an adversary. The others’ reaction is something you don’t want to see too often.
The harsh environments are not only there to hinder your progress, but they also aid you as well. A strong gust of wind for example, can assist with a jump you wouldn’t normally reach. There is a little unsteadiness when controlling the characters, but then this isn’t Super Mario Bros. You need to take your time when traveling through the snow and ice, and if you get too hasty, you can leave the camera behind meaning you can’t see what’s in front of you. There are also certain sections that are 100% trial and error, where you are going to die, several times but then you pick up the rhythm and pattern of the section and it all clicks together. Nuna acquires a weapon of sorts called a Bola, which comes in useful with certain obstacles, but the aiming with the thumb sticks can be frightfully inaccurate, meaning you can have several attempts at throwing it before you get anywhere near your target.
It’s quite a short game, including the short video docs, you’re probably looking at just under 3 hours to get through it, but you’ll want to play through it again. Despite its technical flaws, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more emotionally involving and, dare we say, educational game. It’s amazing how it’s all come together and it makes you appreciate the experience a whole lot more. An emotionally deep and aesthetically beautiful game with some wonderfully animated cut scenes, which needs to be experienced by everyone. It’s an insight in to another part of the world and it’s something that you can’t often say about videogames; humbling.