Every now and then a game comes out that encompasses a cinematic experience in a simple and captivating way. Never Alone accomplishes this very well although it will leave players wanting more as they'll be done with it after a couple of gaming sessions.
Never Alone tells the story of a native Alaskan (Inupiaq) girl and a fox who journey to seek the source of a devastating blizzard. They help each other make it through the harsh climate while outrunning threatening beings, solving puzzles, and calling upon spirits for assistance. Many tragedies will unfold throughout their journey and players will find themselves caught up in the story even if they're cynical at first.
The production values are outstanding. Characters are animated very well and express themselves earnestly. Environments appear barren within an overwhelmingly harsh climate and consist of areas such as the snowy outdoors during both day and night, ice caves filled with swimmable water-filled tunnels, tree-tops high above the ground, and sparse iceberg-riddled waters. These are accompanied artfully with a subtle atmospheric soundtrack. There isn't much voice acting with the exception of the narrator who speaks his native language. Sound effects add embellishment to the overall soundscape with the girl's boots slushing around in the snow, gusts of wind, and suitable vocalizations as the girl reacts to each situation. It's a fantastic looking and sounding game that may attract an audience as you play.
Players control both the girl and the fox which can be accomplished by switching between the two or by getting a friend to take over. Controls are simple as you run and jump around the environments. You can brace yourself so the wind won't blow you away by holding a button down. This adds even more to the atmosphere as it constantly reminds you of the harsh climate. The girl obtains a throwing weapon (called a bola) which is used to break ice and solve various puzzles. It's easy to use as you flick the right stick back and forth in the direction that you want it to go. The fox has the ability to attract spirits that help to create and move platforms for the girl to use. He gains the skill of flight and controlling him from then on becomes much more liberating. Although the controls are simple and easy to use, if you play the game by yourself then the character that you're not in control of can behave rather stupidly. You can switch between them at any time, but when you're focusing on a puzzle and the other character jumps off a cliff, then you can't help but shake your head as you begrudgingly try again. This being said, playing with two players can be a much more rewarding experience.
Never Alone is quite a short game. It can be completed in a couple of casual sessions without much difficulty. More content is included in the form of 24 unlockable documentary-style films collectively entitled "Cultural Insights" which can be interesting to watch if you're keen to those sorts of things. Unlocking all of them is easy as most gamers will probably stumble upon them all within one playthrough. Because of this, the replay value is almost non-existent.
Even though Never Alone is a brief journey with little incentive to play through more than once, it's still a journey worth taking. You will probably think back to the experience fondly as it is a captivating and memorable adventure.
- + Cinematic quality production values
- + Incredible environments will make you feel like you've gone on quite an adventure
- + Buddy system is great for two players
- - Short with almost no replay value
- - Your partner during single player can act rather stupid at times