Never Alone is an indie platformer about the adventures of a young Iñupiat girl and an arctic fox. The Iñupiat are a native Alaskan tribe, whose culture has inspired the setting and story of the title. This culture is no mere window dressing either, throughout the game you’ll unlock video interviews with Iñupiat folk who discuss various elements of their culture, usually neatly setting up the next part of the game.
Unlike most mini-documentary videos in games, these are incredibly interesting and perfectly woven into the experience. You don’t have to watch them in between levels, but I found the warm anecdotes allowed me to appreciate the new environments and characters much more than I would have done if I watched them after finishing the game.
The game itself is a side-scrolling 2D puzzle platformer that can also be played in local co-op, with one player controlling the girl and another, the fox. A simple button press allows solo players to switch between the two. The fox runs a little faster than the girl though, meaning it’s better to mainly control the girl to avoid the camera panning out too far and not allowing the fox to see where he’s going.
The platforming is generally responsive enough, although a few glitches emerged (to be fair, most of these have been patched recently) that saw the AI character leap to their doom or you refusing to leap from a ledge or glitching mid-jump.
Puzzles are rarely taxing, usually involving balancing platforms with the two characters, pushing crates or using the fox’s supernatural ability to make ethereal creatures appear to forge new platforms, or using a thrown weapon to break barriers of ice.
The two characters are a vital ingredient to the game’s appeal, with cute animations like the wind brace as the pair move through arctic winds or the way they clamber up ledges. The changing environments keep things feeling fresh throughout. You’ll move through tundras, forests, glacier caves and witness the Northern Lights in the skies. Heck, the ‘Lights’ turn out to be creepy ghosts that want to steal you away if you stumble into their path. They never mention that in the brochures, do they?
Despite the aforementioned glitches, I was really enjoying the game. But, without giving anything away, there’s a shift in gameplay style for the final third that never really works and creates a lot of frustration, especially when playing solo, as the multi-tasking required can feel a bit like rubbing your belly and tapping your head, while platforming against the clock. Not fun at all. Overall though, Never Alone is well worth a look, especially if you can find someone to sit and play it in co-op as that will ease most of the frustrations.
- Unique characters, setting and story
- Interesting documentary videos
- Works well in co-op
- Final third is disappointing
- Still a bit glitchy
- Not long for £11.99
The Short Version: Never Alone manages to overcome its technical hiccups with an enchanting setting supported with a pair of adorable characters and some interesting cultural insights into the Iñupiat community. The basic puzzle/platforming gameplay is family-friendly and works even better when played in co-op.
Reviewed on PS4.