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Published on November 22nd, 2014 | by Ari Nellen

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Ari Reviews Never Alone the Game

Never Alone is really important, games before have been used as therapy, helping train people for dangerous jobs, and now games are helping to conserve culture. The Iñupiat people of Alaska have a tale called Kunuuksaayuk, where a boy saves his village from the never-ending blizzards that has caused all hunting to stop. Never Alone takes that story, narrates it in the Iñupiat language, and gives it to the gamer wrapped in these beautiful graphics as a platformer.

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Never Alone is a platformer.

You play as two characters (or if you have a friend you can share these roles), an arctic fox and a Iñupiat girl. You solve platforming style puzzles and become immersed in the Iñupiat’s lore, culture and language. The game’s collectable items unlock short videos about the Iñupiat people told by the Iñupiat people, which you can play immediately within the game or from the menu screen.

Mini documentary clips: Native Alaskan storytellers tell about the Iñupiat people’s culture.

The game is intensely beautiful with glowing white and blue backgrounds, and the light and white snow storms giving an almost ethereal feel to the landscape. But it’s not only the gorgeous graphics that the game feels artistic and aesthetically composed, but in the very fluid animations of the arctic fox and of both characters swimming. Looking at the game’s video of the arctic fox makes you realise how much effort was put into getting that movement right.

Also you’ll note that the boy from the Kunuuksaayuk story is now a girl and, obviously, a POC girl. This this small gender change is great step towards increasing diversity in an arena which is so often white, male dominated.

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Beautiful animation: The characters swimming in water is so fluid.

The Never Alone is very short, and can be finished in an evening. And there are a few bugs in the PC version that you’ll come across. The main ones are glitchy death animations but there are also more frustrating ones like getting stuck in wall. The game does a good job of telling the player what objects are to be interacted with, and where the path lies. However if you stray from this, as you might try to explore, you’ll find places where you’ll jump through walls and get stuck off screen. Sometimes you’ll die but more often you’ll just wiggle the joystick trying to get back. Most of the times I bugged out like this, I’d have to start the checkpoint over.

The gameplay has some bugs: A blizzard inside a cave while the arctic fox is stuck in a wall.

The most intensely annoying thing though is the pathing for the characters. Playing by myself meant that the other character would follow my movements. As a platformer I’d sometimes find the PC controlled character would throw itself into harms way, sometimes fall into crevices, or path off an important moving platform. This becomes agonisingly obvious when you have timed events.

While these are all negatives they don’t distract too much from the gaming experience. The checkpoints are numerous, and so the frustration is minimal. And, in the case of pathing issues, you’re not going to see them if you’re playing co-op. The game also isn’t too hard and so there are no intense areas where progress being lost would really frustrate.

While the game is short, I think any longer and the padding would ruin the retelling of Kunuuksaayuk. In fact the extra elements to the story (the addition of the Manslayer) are almost unwelcome, since it feels disparate from the main tale: though not so much as to ruin the journey that Never Alone takes you on.

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Tidbits of Iñupiat lore: To get the full story of these creatures you can watch a clip about how The Northern Lights are actually children spirits.

While the game is easy, I thinks that just allows the game to become accessible to more people. I played Never Alone alone, but you really should play it with someone else. For me Never Alone is the best kind of game to share with the ‘uninitiated’ friend or sibling or parent or grandparent of the gaming world. It’s beautiful, it’s not too challenging and you can play it together. That’s really the meat and bones of this game, it wants you to share it, it wants to be completely accessible to most people. Never Alone isn’t going to help keep the Iñupiat culture vitalised unless it’s passed on to more players.

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Beautiful artwork: During story cutscenes (which are skippable) traditional style illustrations are used to animate the story.

I think Never Alone succeeds fully in what it set out to do, tell a traditional tale that can engage a wide audience. While the bugs can be annoying, it won’t cause you to lose momentum or interest in the game. I’m not suggesting you pick up the game because of it’s lofty goals, I’m telling you to play Never Alone because it’s good fun with a friend and you’ll learn about a cool-as culture as you go.

Ari played the PC version using an Xbox 360 controller. You can buy Never Alone here and is currently 10% off!

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About the Author

Ari Nellen

Ari is a gamer who lives for adventure game, horror games, puzzle games, a good shooter on a console or PC. They've been gaming since a little tacker, leading to a misspent youth. They have a linguistics major, with a philosophy minor and currently work in IT. When they aren't gaming they love to take photos of gigs, weddings and food and cuddle their corgi puppy.



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