Never Alone Review: Let It Snow
The last few years gamers have been bombarded with top-notch 2D platformers that are more about their atmosphere than actual platforming. Limbo made millions of console gamers aware that the platformer doesn’t have to be a strictly Mario type affair and can have real substance. Never Alone continues this trend in a new way, making it a must-play title for anyone.
A quick rundown of the game’s initial premise: A young girl named Nuna sets out on a quest with her fox friend to figure out why an endless blizzard is assaulting her village. She gains magical powers, as does the fox, and they set out to find the culprit behind the destructive weather. The plot comes straight from Alaskan Iñupiaq folklore, a fantastic perspective that you’ve never seen before. The game is fun but don’t doubt that the unlockable videos exploring Iñupiaq culture can teach you something interesting. Its rare to see culture so embedded in a game like this and it works well, tying the game’s premise together nicely.
Nuna’s movement is pretty slow and she has a habit of dying easily. Her only weapon is her bola which can break ice and slow down some enemies. The fox that goes on the adventure with her can be switched to at any time. Initially, the fox can climb high ledges and get into small spaces but a mid-game twist gives the fox a new form and the power to make platforms appear. During the second half of the game the puzzles ramp up a bit in difficulty though they are never too hard. No puzzle is all that satisfying when solved since none are all that clever unfortunately.
Two players can play the game cooperatively and you’ll want to have a friend nearby. One player controls Nuna while the other controls the fox. Working together with a real person is significantly more functional than relying on the game’s AI, which can be hit and miss at the worst moments.
My biggest complaint with the game, other than its lack of variety in its platforming, is that the platforms the fox can activate are quite jaded. Should the fox move too far away from one platform, it vanishes. Often you’ll have to work with two or more platforms at once, leaving Nuna on one of them. Get too far away from the platform Nuna is on and she’ll fall to her death. Its a very annoying mechanic that never gets too frustrating but certainly should have not made it into the final game.
Additionally, the game’s AI makes some questionable decisions. Nuna and the fox are supposed to follow each other no matter where they go and sometimes this leads to one of them getting killed. Again, this doesn’t happen too often but its an odd design choice. It makes an otherwise beautiful game an exercise in frustration at times.
Visually, Never Alone is jaw dropping. The art style is one of the most original, one of a kind looks I’ve seen in years. From the villain’s face to various environments you’ll visit, the art direction is superb. The world is drenched in snow, tying into the main reason why Nuna has set out on this adventure. It may not be the most technically impressive game you’ll play this year but it is near the top in terms of being aesthetically appealing.
At five to six hours, Never Alone is a stellar, atmospheric experience that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The AI and some platforming segments can be very frustrating and it does hold the game back a little. In the end you’ll be happy to recommend the game solely on the merit of its style and substance rather than its so-so execution. Never Alone is a game you should never pass up.
Never Alone is a flawed but beautiful experience. You will not regret your time spent with Nuna and her fox, even if the two could work together better. PS4 version tested, review code provided by E-Line Media's PR agency.