Experience the epic journey of Nuna and Fox as they search for the source of an eternal blizzard that threatens the survival of everything they have ever known. Never Alone is an atmospheric puzzle platformer developed in collaboration with the Iñupiat, an Alaska Native people, drawn from a traditional story that has been shared across the generations.
Publisher: E-Line Media
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Also available for: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, PC, Mac
Developer: Upper One Games
Creative Director: Sean Vesce
Lead Game Designer: Grant K. Roberts
Art Director: Dima Veryovka
Writers: Robert Nasruk Cleveland (inspired by the story from)
The Never Alone: Arctic Collection includes the original game and its DLC. Never Alone is an ancient Iñupiat tale narrated in traditional language; it tells the story of a young girl and an arctic fox trying to survive and discover the source of the never-ending blizzard after the destruction of her village. Fox Tales is the DLC that tells another story about two friends while utilising the girl and fox from the original game.
Never Alone starts off with Nuna and Fox playing in the snow, the snow is crisp, and the two are having a great deal of fun. Unfortunately, it does not last as a blizzard strikes, and you must fight to return to the village. Once you survive the fight against the blizzard, you see that the village is destroyed and burning. A creepy looking man chases you out of town, and the story begins shortly after when you meet a strange-looking Owl Man.
The game is a platformer with the story coming in waves. Over the course of eight chapters, we learn about the Inupiat people and their culture. The player learns through videos found throughout the levels, either by finishing it or finding hidden owls. The levels are completed using both Nuna and Fox swapping between the two to solve puzzles or add a second person to complete the levels in local co-op. The platforming in the game varies from easy to hard, depending on the level and what needs to be completed. Nuna has access to a Bola, a thrown set of rocks and rope that flies like a star, while Fox also has access to spirits who appear when she is near, these spirits can be used in multiple ways, from platforms to climbing holds and was a unique bit of the gameplay.
The DLC Fox Tales uses the world differently. Most of the mobility in the game is in the water by paddling in a canoe or swimming below the surface to solve problems. Fox Tales uses spirits in a variety of different ways. Sometimes they’re enemies that might grab Nuna or Fox or blast currents through the water, even gifting stones to help solve problems. While this DLC was shorter, it was more challenging and rewarding and only spanned five chapters.
The game also features prominent videos and interviews with the Iñupiat people. Telling the player where the stories come from and what they are about was a highlight of the game. Learning many new things about the culture and the people involved in the game was fascinating. It made me want to go back and find the owls and videos I had missed once I had completed the game.
The music is beautiful, the tunes are subtle and unique, and the characters sounds and emotions are conveyed through the sound effects with ease. I often heard Fox whimper or Nuna cry out in pain when the other died or fell. Never Alone’s graphics are well suited to the Nintendo Switch, where I played in both handheld and docked modes, and the game looks marvellous in both scenarios. Having the couch co-op was a lifesaver towards the back end of the game, making some of the more precarious jumps and movements more manageable.