Never Alone PS4 Review
Publisher: E-Line Media Developer: Upper One Games Genre: Puzzle Platformer Players: 1-2
Age Rating: 12+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
Never Alone is a visually beautiful platformer, a game that was developed with the close help of the Alaskan community.
The story follows young Inuit Nuna, who, with the help of a mysterious white fox, sets out on an arduous adventure through the cold climes of Alaska, to uncover the puzzle behind a treacherous blizzard, which has forced her fellow villagers to seek shelter.
The story, whilst basic, is told through beautifully rendered cutscenes to mimic the way the Alaskans tell of their stories and history through the use of Scrimshaw, an art style using carvings and engravings on bone or ivory, and animated in-game, coming to life on screen, and intertwined with the 3D cutscenes shown during the gameplay, whilst all being narrated through the native Alaskan language.
For the most part, the animation flows smoothly as you play; Nuna and her fox friend run very fluidly, though the game is not without its technical issues, making for some very funny glitches that, unfortunately, take you out of the experience the game is offering. Getting past certain areas can be quite frustrating as Nuna, or her fox friend, glitch through the map, which happens fairly often, though thankfully there are many forgiving checkpoints.
The level design is simple and with the use of cold colours, isolated environments, soft music that is used to emphasize the situation, and the clever use of sound – as icy gusts of wind blows across the screen, it certainly gives you a chill – it makes the game feel as though Nuna is very much on her own, with only her fox friend to keep her company.
The game can be played in single player, with the player taking control of both Nuna and her fox companion, or with a second player, who controls the fox, in co-op mode. Both players work together to help each other navigate around the volatile surroundings, and help each other to escape various enemies, including a polar bear, a fire-ball throwing invader, and even the green lights of the Aurora Borealis comes to life to snatch away our heroes. The mysterious Artic fox seems to possess special powers of its own, being able to call upon strange, spiritual beings, known as Silas, to help assist Nuna to reach high places, cross spacious chasms, or pass over dangerous waters. The levels are quite unpredictable and leaves you speculating about what wonders awaits them.
The controls are fairly easy to learn, with the commands briefly shown onscreen for the player to follow. Nuna gains the ability to use the Bola, a special throwing weapon that can be used to break blocks of ice, opening up new areas, or clearing the pathway. The controls to use the Bola, however, are quite finicky, with the left stick having to be pushed backwards, aimed, and then pushed forwards to release the Bola in the desired direction. The first time this ability is used, it is not long until you are thrown into a chase sequence which can become very frustrating to pass, as the player has been given very little time to adjust to the awkward controls which, again, take the player out of the experience.
The game very much wants you to learn about the Alaskan natives, with the ability to find owls located around the levels which unlock Cultural Insights, short video footage giving an insight into how Alaskans survive in such a cold climate. It is a very interesting way to learn about another culture, one that comes together to help each other endure the challenges they face, and how one person with the courage, strength and possible self-sacrifice can make all the difference to their community. Nuna is that such person, setting out to face possible death to help save her family and fellow villagers from starvation, trapped inside their dwellings by the icy storm.
With 13 chapters, there is certainly plenty to unveil as the duo continues their quest, with many surprises along the way. The game, whilst marred by many bugs and glitches, is still one very enchanting adventure and towards the end, you can certainly feel the sense of peril that Nuna faces. A beautiful experience with many unexpected moments, and a monumental final boss, it certainly makes for a very satisfactory and relieving ending.