Never Alone for PS4, Xbox One and PC
Never Alone is a bad game made for a very good reason. It’s sort of like Comic Relief. Objectively speaking it’s usually dreadful comedy, but it’s run for such a good reason you can’t really get mad at it. Never Alone was created to raise awareness of a little known indigenous group, Native Alaskans known as the Inupiat. The philosophy of using game design to bring little known cultures to life is so wonderful that I’m willing to forgive the generally quite poor gameplay.
Never Alone is an adaption of a popular myth told by the Inupiat people. The protagonist is Nuna, a young Inupiat girl whose village is destroyed by a terrible man. With the assistance of an (adorable) arctic fox, Nuna quests out to find him and also to seek the source of an endless blizzard ravaging her world. As you play, you unlock short documentary clips about the Inupiat.
The story isn’t particularly compelling, but the way that the game narrative weaves around the documentary footage is intriguing. Moments in the story are followed up with clips which explain what these things mean in Inupiat culture. This is the way to make a game educational and elevates what would be an otherwise dull story into something quite special.
Never Alone is a platformer, but is very much in the tradition of Limbo, in that it has quite floaty and imprecise controls. To be honest, it’s frequently incredibly frustrating. It’s built around co-op, but I still don’t have a second PS4 controller so played solo. Nuna and the fox have different abilities, with Nuna able to throw a bola, a kind of slingshot type thing, to destroy obstacles and the fox able to call spirits and move them around for Nuna to climb on. There are some simple puzzles and some cool platforming moments, with the highlight being an actually rather stunning section at the source of the blizzard at the end of the game. Still, it’s not a huge amount of fun and I frequently died for reasons that felt quite unfair. This is a game which is rough around the edges.
Thankfully, it looks lovely. Never Alone is gorgeous, with a fairly straightforward and unstylised look which ends up working wonders as you trek through the icy wasteland. The sound, music and atmosphere is top notch and proves how powerful games can be as a medium for placing you into a whole new world.
Your mileage with this one may vary, depending on your perception of what gaming is for. Being honest, Never Alone really wasn’t my cup of tea, but I love that developers are creating games with a whole range of intentions. It may be a rough start, but I’d love to see more games like this.