Never Alone, also known as Kisima Inŋitchuŋa is a lovely game. Its design is heart warming, the way it explores the lore of the Iñupiat natives of Alaska is unique and there are some wonderful set pieces, which is playable as a singleplayer or co-op experience, Never Alone works as not only a game but as an educational tool that delivers an intriguing transmedia experience. It begins, as most games do, with a tutorial, but does it in a way that makes it enjoyable. It’s enough of a challenge for you to learn the ropes without feeling you can get away with not paying attention. As the game progresses it introduces you to new mechanics and throws up various puzzles that need both of the playable characters to combine together to move on.

It’s the kind of game that you can finish in one sitting, and even though there are collectables in the form of insight films, it is unlikely that you will find yourself going back into the game world as you will most likely get most, if not all, on your first playthrough. So with a game that will most likely only be experienced once, you have to make sure it is tight with its gameplay mechanics, design and story. Never Alone unfortunately struggles to mesh all of this together, supplying lovely moments but not a complete package. The gameplay is what you would expect from a puzzle platformer. Jump over things, use a skill that you learn for a few puzzles, learn a new skill and then use that instead. Often in games with two characters it is normally the case that one character does it all and the other character is there to just lend a hand. In Never Alone however both characters have their uses, although it is far more practical to implement them in co-op mode rather than singleplayer.

Never Alone

A solo playthrough means you’re always doing something, but also means you’re relying on your A.I controlled partner to be doing a good job too, keeping out of the way of hazards and making sure they jump where they need to. This is not what the A.I does a lot of the time and will frequently just stand there when you want it to follow the other character across platforms. Obviously this is to be expected with computer controlled characters, but in a game that relies heavily on co-operation it is not something that is great to experience. When it is a fellow human making the mistake at least you can shake your head in disappointment at them.

Despite the negatives there are many strong positives that help tip the scales. One of the key positives being the transmedia experiences that educate the player about the Iñupiat tribe. It’s not a new thing to have unlockable videos in a game, but it’s the way Never Alone implements this and the quality of the videos that makes it stand out. Throughout the game you encounter owls, some on your routes and some hidden away. By going up to them you unlock an insight video, which you can then view straight away by hitting the touchpad on the DualShock 4. It takes you straight to the video and explains the meaning behind something you have just encountered in the game, or tells you a story that is relevant to what you are experiencing. The quality of these videos is top notch, with some beautiful camera work and some wonderful editing. It makes them a reward worth getting and worth watching.

Never Alone

It’s also a truly beautiful game graphically. The snow looks lovely and the animations add a real weight to your journey as you slog through the deep layers of it. The arctic fox is truly adorable and the sound design is perfect, from the whimpers of the fox if Nuna dies, to the whistling of the wind to the narrator adding another layer to the story folding out in front of the player. Puzzles are never too challenging, making it quite easy to judge when to run and what to do. Most abilities are easy to get your head around, although some of them can be pointlessly fiddly, like the bola weapon.

My main experience with the game came from co-op and it is definitely the better way to play the game, which ties in nicely to the overall theme. Due to the puzzles not being too difficult it is the perfect game to play with anyone, as long as they have a basic grasp of gaming, plus they can jump into the game with a touch of a button. When played as a singleplayer experience you may find the game a bit plodding, especially due to how many sections of the game are specifically set out for cooperation. Never Alone is an exciting example of not only educational gaming but transmedia experiences too. Although having a game that rewards you with videos and tries to be educational. It’s nice that the game doesn’t force the videos on you, making it obvious when a new video is unlocked but not imposing it on you, though in saying that, you’d be a fool not to watch. Never Alone may not revolutionise gaming, but it will stick with you, educate you and, hopefully, make you smile.



Author

Brett Claxton

I like video games. That's why I write about them. I've played them for years and in that time I've found a love for creepy horrors, indie darlings and the oddities that come out of Japan. Although my main purpose on the site is to write up news and reviews I'm also one of the main Let's Play video creators of the team (or, as I call them, Brett's Play videos). You can check them out here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bretteh2