What’s this? Two posts in two weeks? Yes, now that I’ve almost got all my internship hours in, I can finally start cutting back on the number of days I’m at my site. That means I actually have time to do things when I’m at home other than sleep. It’s amazing! So I’ve picked back up where my gaming left off, hoping to finish Assassin’s Creed 2 before my copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition comes in. But I also noticed a few indie games have come out on the Playstation Network. The first one I tried my hand at earlier this evening was Never Alone.
Never Alone is a puzzle game about a girl from an indigenous Alaskan tribe named Nuna. When her village is besieged by a harsh, never-ending blizzard, Nuna sets out to find the cause. During her search, she’s attacked by a polar bear. Thankfully, an arctic fox comes to Nuna’s rescue & joins her on her journey. But when they return to Nuna’s village, they discovered an evil man has destroyed it. He chases after Nuna when he discovers she’s carrying the weapon he was searching for, & the duo manage to escape on an ice flow.
The game can be played alone or in co-op, with each player controlling either Nuna or the fox. The puzzles revolve around utilizing the characters’ abilities to overcome obstacles. Nuna can use her Bola, a throwing weapon, to break barriers, while the fox can climb walls & see helpful spirits. The puzzles started out pretty easy, with things like having the fox climb the cliff & knock a rope down for Nuna to climb. But they’ve been getting more elaborate. At one point I had to use the fox to lure a polar bear to the opposite side of a cave then wall climb out of the way, then have Nuna hit the bear with her Bola before jumping out of reach, making the bear smash his head against the wall & crumble a piece of the environment. I think it’d be interesting to play in co-op, since you wouldn’t need to switch between the two characters. The puzzles require a bit of trial & error, but so far haven’t been too difficult.
The story is based on indigenous folklore, which I find to be fairly interesting. Living in the mid-eastern part of the US, I obviously haven’t had any experience with traditional Alaskan culture, so the stories the game is based around are completely new to me. You can unlock cultural vignettes to explain some of the references, but for the most part it hasn’t been anything that I haven’t been able to follow. The overall feel of the game actually sort of reminds me of Limbo, except not as dark… for the most part. I’ve died plenty of times from missing jumps or getting caught by the polar bear. It makes me feel sad with the fox chirps sadly when Nuna dies, or when the game camera felt the need to show the polar bear killing my fox. There’s no blood, but it was still pretty violent.
I also have to say I find the presentation rather stark. Being set in the frozen tundra, the majority of the screen is white, with Nuna being the only spot of color. But this just serves to make the colors stand out vividly. If you can overlook the whiteness, I think it can be a very pretty game at times. I like the art style, especially for the spirits. They have this ethereal quality to them.
I’m looking forward to seeing what else Nuna & her fox have to go through to end this eternal blizzard. I just hope the fox doesn’t die in the end. Maybe I’ve just become jaded by the recent trend in games of having bittersweet endings, but there’s no way they’d give me such a cute companion if they weren’t going to pull at my heartstrings later.