18th Nov2014

‘Never Alone [Kisima Innitchuna]‘ Review (PC)

by Paul Metcalf

never-alone-nuna-fox

Platform games have been around for almost as long as we’ve played computer games.  To try and keep them interesting through the years they have been adapted to be more puzzle based, been based around memorable characters and tested gamers to their limits.  Some though look to the narrative quality of the game to add a little something.  Never Alone [Kisima Innitchuna] looks to do this through the story of a little girl called Nuna, her fox friend and a blizzard she decides to one day fight against.

Never Alone takes inspiration from Alaskan Native stories and looks to share them, as the Iñupiat people have done from generation to generation.  Sharing their story with the gamer they tell the story of Nuna hunting for the source of an eternal blizzard which threatens the survival of her family and way of life.  The fact that the story is narrated to us as we play in the Iñupiat language makes the experience quite magical, as if we are being told the story of Nuna and Fox as we experience it too.

In the game sense Fox is the co-operative player that a second person can control or the solo-player has to take over to solve some of the puzzles.  Fox gains the attention of the spirits which surround the girl, which help Nuna by creating platforms for her to use to continue on her journey.  In the story Fox is her spirit guide, and the spirits that surround him and Nuna help her on her journey not only to find the source of the blizzard but also to help her find her way back home.  While playing the game, videos are unlocked that give an insight into the making of the game and the culture that has provided the story that is being told.  These insights give the gamer background to the story and what the makers of the game and the storytellers are wanting to share.  It’s all very mesmerising as you see the legends and beliefs of the Inupiat that were used to build up the story, and come to understand just why the game is named Never Alone.

The dangers that you as the girl face in the game range from the environment itself, the animals (in this case the polar bear), a character known as the Manslayer and the blizzard itself.  Using set pieces in the gameplay the gamer has to make it past scenarios that are based around puzzles, be it trapped in the bear’s lair or having to defeat the Manslayer as he throws flames to hinder Nuna’s progression.  The story is easily the strongest feature of Never Alone, especially once you discover the source of the blizzard, and it has a true fairy tale feel to it.  The evolution of the relationship between Nuna and Fox never grows old, especially at a very pivotal moment in the game that is both touching and very important in actual game mechanic terms.

The actual game mechanics for the most part are strong though can become annoying, as with most platform games that are reliant on solving puzzles which progressively become harder as you progress.  The sudden increase in challenge at the end for example is slightly unbalanced, but to finally make it to the end is a very fulfilling feeling, but be ready to become very frustrated with yourself as your reactions are tested.  There are also times that various bugs got in the way of gameplay, but hopefully these can be patched and when playing single player sometimes you do feel you are fighting against the AI of Fox.  This is a problem that is common in these types of games though all the way back to Sonic 2 and Tails.

For the most part Never Alone is a game that is challenging but not too hard, there is an understanding that the story is the most important element of the game.  Never Alone looks beautiful and has a style that is both charming and surprisingly warming for a game set in such a cold environment.  This comes from the game style though and the story being told, the narration of the story of Nuna and Fox is about being given a warning about the dangers of being small and taking on a dangerous voyage, but it is also a story of community, that help will always be there not only from people but from the spirits around us.  Dangers will always be there, whether it be dangerous strangers (Manslayer), the polar bear or the environment itself, the game is a warning about these but also a heart-warming tale of a little girl who is Never Alone, and most importantly is on a personal voyage for the good of the people around her, her community.

Once you complete the game you do feel like you’ve been told a story, and it is one that will stick with you.  Definitely a game for fans of puzzle platform games, but also something a little more special, Never Alone may not be the longest game but it enchants you with a magical story just waiting to be shared.

**** 4/5

Never Alone will be available on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4 from November 18th

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek
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