Never Alone is an educational game. Ten years ago that would have made us flinch in disgust a little, now it feels almost unheard of. This isn’t trite, patronising or tedious, instead it’s enthralling and immersive, using storytelling, music and a distinct visual style to give you an insight into the world of the Iñupiat people. A simple 2D puzzle platformer at heart, as you go on you unlock pieces of a documentary. The two intertwine, as you come across spirits in the game you can watch interviews with people explaining the stories of their ancestors, as you see wild animals you see footage of their inspirations in the real world.
The game itself is very similar to Limbo in terms of gameplay, you jump, you push and pull and you interact with a few different objects in mostly simple physics-based puzzles. The little hook for this game is that you control both a young girl and a fox, or a second player can control the fox if you’d prefer. The fox is more agile but not as strong, so the two must work together to overcome the challenges of northern Alaska. These challenges come in all shapes and sizes from realistic problems like blizzards and wild animals, to menacing little figures and troublesome spirits. It’s very much a story that is being told to you though, with heavy narration, so you’re not expected to be stuck for any amount of time. Instead you’re continually pushed forwards to find out more about the world.
Every now and then you’ll come across an owl who’ll unlock a piece of the documentary. The film is incredibly well shots and has interesting and thought provoking interviews with modern day Iñupiats as well as footage of the wilds they live in and the troubles they have to face. The tone is kept consistent throughout so while you do keep dipping into the film and out of the game, it never feels jarring. Instead you seamlessly transition between the two and we found ourselves looking forward ot unlocking the next piece of the film.
This isn’t a terribly long or difficult game, but it is absolutely enchanting and well worth a play for anyone who has any interest at all in the rest of the world. It’s rare that a game can teach you something while keeping you entertained but Never Alone manages it effortlessly. Technically the graphics could be more refined (It plays like Limbo but definitely lacks the visual punch that games of that ilk can manage) and the controls can be a little floaty but this is missing the point significantly. This is a wonderful title and we strongly recommend you give it a go. It will make you feel cold though.