Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) Reviews

AuthorReview
S P 4 C E Y
257,320 (122,325)
S P 4 C E Y
TA Score for this game: 1,175
Posted on 05 December 14 at 15:41, Edited on 05 December 14 at 15:48
This review has 30 positive votes and 6 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is a truly beautiful game. Perhaps iOS-esq in its formulation and relative simplicity, but certainly retail-like in its graphical finishing. If only the game mechanics were as well delivered as the sensitive and charming story of a young Inuit and her spirit friend.

External image

Initially the game begins as a basic side-scrolling platform adventure, with the typical jumping, climbing, crate pushing and standard mechanics that we're all very used to. Although without any real tutorials, the game notes the occasional new action button and relaxes the gamer smoothly into the process, and readies them for the adventure ahead.

However, just like the falling snow, and irritating wind, the story of the game becomes somewhat repetitive, with the joyous cuteness of your companion fox (think Daemon similar to the Northern Lights trilogy) soon lost to controller-throwing exasperation when your distracted spirit mutt or unresponsive Inuit child fails to make the most basic of jumps. With the poorly explained requirement to control both characters at times (unless you wish to risk the brash decision making of the AI), it is a steep learning curve when coming across your first puzzle - with the surprising lack of AI intelligence for your partner causing you to continuously restart what would at first appear to be a very basic hurdle. If you have a second controller and a partner to join you, this frustration can be somewhat mitigated - but for those flying solo, be prepared for some moments of real impatient angst.

External image

"Look at that small gap! You'll make it, your little friend won't"

This irritation comes and goes, much like the conversely well-considered cultural insights which you unlock as your progress through the game continues. These documentary-style videos give you an insight into a culture so very alien to what we so often experience, and incredibly divergent from what we typically understand to be the focus of a video game.

The game beautifully reflects the different aspects of a life and culture that is so often presented on TV, but rarely offers the engagement we gain through this media experience. It’s just so unfortunate that the bond is too often shattered by poorly executed game mechanics. Rather than being broken in the sense of unplanned glitches, these feel desperately incomplete, as if the developer's intention has been achieved but that the game hasn’t yet been fully tested. What initially appeared to be a game I would love to pass onto a young child soon became clearly inappropriate, purely on the basis of unnecessary difficulty as the player tries in vain to complete puzzles and make basic jumps across icebergs, only to be flaunted by a failed jump from the AI that should have been easily possible.

As a game it is worth considering, but as an experience it is absolutely worth picking up. Perhaps during a future sale, or when you just want to pick up some straight forward gamerscore while learning about a culture that we'll no doubt one day lose - most likely due to similar problems to this game's; hurried consumerism without due consideration of the outcome.
Please log in to comment on this solution.
AztecOmar
218,713 (148,443)
AztecOmar
TA Score for this game: 1,175
Posted on 16 December 14 at 00:46
This review has 15 positive votes and 4 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
It is very unlikely that you have ever played a game quite like Never Alone. Though its DNA is seemingly stitched together in a bizarre amalgamation of other successful titles, the final patchwork blanket that is produced has a beauty and reverence about it that we only get to experience once every few years. Never Alone might not be perfect, but it delivers a narrative experience truly unlike anything else, creating an entirely new genre in its wake.

Boiled down to the most basic of mechanical terms, Never Alone is a 2D, side-scrolling platformer not too far removed from the likes of Limbo. Playable either solo or cooperatively, the players take control of Nuna, a young native Alaskan girl, and a friendly arctic fox. The pair work together to venture across Alaska to discover the source of the endless blizzards that have been wreaking havoc upon Nuna’s village. The gameplay is simple, but steadily ratchets up the complexity of the puzzles over the course of the experience. Using both Nuna’s strength and Fox’s agility, the players have to use both characters abilities to progress. Unlike most other cooperative titles, developer Upper One Games have avoided the pitfalls of giving the bulk of the puzzle commands to player one: rather, both characters will need to be used constantly to progress. By ensuring that both characters receive equal time in the lead position, Never Alone successfully establishes the spirit of cooperation that the game so strongly relies upon.

Moreso than any mechanical nuance, it is the plot that drives the player to continue. Though the story itself is pretty simple, there is such a strong emphasis on traditionalism that dictates the tone of the narrative. From the story beats themselves to the cutscene design, all elements presented to the player are imbued with a sense of cultural authenticity from the Alaskan native people.

This authenticity is by design. Strangely, the story of the development of the game is just as interesting as the story in the game. The Cook Inlet Tribal Council is a group focused on the preservation and recognition of the native Alaskan ways of life. They spread this message to the world through films, exhibits and oral storytelling. When searching for a new avenue to spread this traditional message, they decided that a video game would be an excellent way to reach an entirely new audience, likely unaware of the Alaskan way of life. A partnership was formed with Upper One Games to create a title that focused on being representative of the Alaskan people, rather than the flashiest, fanciest thrill-a-minute experience.

This emphasis really bears fruit, giving the player a deeper cultural insight into an avenue of the world not often explored. Though we all have a cultural understanding for the natives in our own countries, exploring those of another region in such a format is riveting. The narration throughout the game greatly helps towards this. Spoken entirely in the native Alaskan tongue, and translated via on-screen subtitles, the commentary is doled out in a methodical, almost rhythmic tone. As Nuna and Fox work their way through the frozen world, the narrator will chime here or there in with a sentence or two. It begins to feel as though you are watching some kind of foreign documentary film, and builds upon the sensation of being taken completely out of the regular, video game norm.

Aiding that feel are the short form, behind the scenes videos that unlock through the game. These documentary style segments are used to expound upon references that pop up in the game in greater detail. Each of the 24 videos only go for three or so minutes, but are packed to the gills with unique and highly interesting insights. Combining interviews with many Alaskan natives and simply beautiful video footage of the land and its various peoples and animals, they further explain segments of the traditional Alaskan way of life. The intrinsic beauty of the stark, desolate winter landscape is masterfully captured, and will have you pleading for a full length documentary feature. These are above and beyond the best parts of the title, and some of the best unlockable content I’ve ever seen.

The art and sound in Never Alone may be relatively spartan by design, but is strongly evocative of the feelings of isolation and oppression by nature that walking into a blizzard exudes. There are a number of different areas that the linear narrative pushes the player through, each producing a very distinct and visually impressive spectacle. The section inspired by King Island is a particular visual marvel – a dark, night-time traipse across jagged rock and thin, rickety wood beams held by fraying rope. This all takes place beneath the undulating, greenish glow of the Aurora up above. The wondrous nature of the level design presented is made all the more eerie by the unlockable documentaries that show just how similar living on King Island was. Somehow, the thought of knowing this outlandish area was directly influenced by a real world counterpart makes it all the more fantastical.

Never Alone is the first title from Upper One Games, and it can show at times. The AI of your partner can be frustrating, and there are a couple little path finding and navigational burrs that would be filed off by a more experienced developer. Even with these small errs, however, there’s no denying that Never Alone is a masterpiece in its own right. It’s an unforgettable experience that at just over 2 hours long doesn’t outstay its welcome and leaves the player clamouring for more. The team at Upper One Games have created a genre ripe for continued sequels, and I would love to see a similar style experience produced for other cultures around the world in the future.

Even if we don’t receive these sequels, however, I can rest easy knowing just how special an experience Never Alone was. In a time in gaming where only the biggest of sequels manage to capture the attention of the masses, the sheer audacity of the partnership between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Upper One Games to create something quiet, cultured and low-key must be applauded. Never Alone is a title dripping in style and passion, and a true gem amongst the war-torn landscape of gaming. I adore Never Alone, and am so glad that someone had the passion to create it.
There are 3 comments relating to this Review | Please log in to comment on this solution.
MCoReviews XBL
3,302 (2,320)
MCoReviews XBL
TA Score for this game: 726
Posted on 05 January 15 at 00:00
This review has 12 positive votes and 3 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Platforming games are always the type of games that will either be loved by the old gaming generation or hated by some of the new people coming into this community. Whilst platforming games don’t really have any other direction then following the pre-set road, some have a really twisting story that can take the gamer away and feel the same way their main characters do. Is Never Alone one of those games?

External image


SINGLE PLAYER EXPERIENCE
That’s pretty much the only thing that can be reviewed in this game, along with some gameplay elements. There’s no multiplayer, although you can play this game locally with a second controller. Without giving away too much of the story, we will be looking into the concept of the story. The game starts off with a cutscene in an Inuit village. Soon after, you will discover that a blizzard has destroyed most of it; and that an evil person is searching for a hidden item. The game then places you in the shoes of your main character, which is a little girl running away from a polar bear. Soon, she will meet her new friend (a fox) that saves her live and thus, the two start an unforgettable journey on the cold grounds of Antarctica.

You control both characters, and switch in between them with the Y-button. If you control one, the other follows you. However, sometimes they seem to live a life of their own which kills them instantly in some instances. Nothing too game-breaking but it could be annoying at some point. At a certain point in the game, without spoiling too much, the gameplay changes a bit where you have to drag certain parts of the map. While it may be considered original, the speed of the dragging seems a bit too slow and could be frustrating at a certain boss battle.

External image


During the story, you will be entertained by solving some puzzles along your path as well. These aren’t too hard and could be easily solved, but some do require some thought from the person behind the controller.

Whilst the concept, setting and gameplay are pretty original, the collectibles try (and succeed) to add some other knowledge to the game. All of these are pretty easy to find should you hunt achievements/trophies, and are easily viewable in the main menu under the section “Cultural Insights”.

External image


Another surprising aspect are the graphics. These are pretty simple but fit in nicely, and isn’t something that decreases the quality of the game. With that also comes the soundtrack, which can also be seen as something that increases the quality of the game, even if it sounds as simple as they are. Additionally, there are no framerate/quality drops which makes this game a pure pleasure to play.

The only downside, besides the few small bugs, is the duration of the game. The game is easily completable in 2-3 hours and provides no replayability. Once you’ve collected every Insight and experienced the full story, there’s no reason for gamers to go back and replay. There aren’t any other game-modes available, but the game doesn’t need them and making more available through the means of DLC would be complete overkill.

ACHIEVEMENTS
For the achievement/trophy hunters out there, this game is a gift brought down from heaven. The game can add 15 achievements/trophies to your gamercard. 11 of these 15 are easily unlocked by playing and completing the main story, whilst the other 4 embrace the Cultural Insights. Seeing as the duration of the game is pretty short, this game should be on your card, even if you are not interested in the story this game is able to provide.

External image


CONCLUSION
Even though this game is very short, the story is fantastic and is surrounded by beautiful and fitting graphics. Never Alone succeeds in delivering a compelling story and keeps the gamer interested during various interesting puzzles and events. Even if you aren’t a fan of platformers in the first place, this game should be one that everyone needs to try (and rather sooner than later).

*** Spoiler - click to reveal ***

Please log in to comment on this solution.
Skycaptin5
625,963 (397,320)
Skycaptin5
TA Score for this game: 1,175
Posted on 19 November 14 at 18:34, Edited on 19 November 14 at 18:35
This review has 12 positive votes and 5 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Campaign
Journey through an olden tale that has been passed through generations of the Inuit people in the form of a simple platformer. Bringing in a focus on story and character development trek across wastelands filled with blizzards and gusts of wind. Never Alone largely focuses on a cooperative style of play with a young girl set out to find the cause of these constant storms and a noble spirit fox that's well, one with the spirits. There were some interesting puzzles built around these two and their abilities, with some happenings just being straight up strange. Despite this all being solid there were multiple times where I got furious at the AI running off somewhere or just standing still. Even more the slow and calm pace seemed to be thrown out there in the final chapter of play. Aside from this the story while being short was a lovely tale that you could tell was told properly with authenticity. The narration mixed with soft graphics made the world great yet simple. It was also impressive seeing them tackle the few boss battles with simplistic moves that kept pace going, but made you feel the success of completing another trial. That polar bear just seems to have some issues or something as we saw him peak in on the occasion. Aside from the main plot and dealing with weird floating spirit creatures the extra story around the game is told through these cultural insight videos which can be found by seeking out owls. These are nice smaller videos giving some background information with some great nature shots of the arctic region.

Gameplay
Going to basics it Never Alone has a simple platforming system which has you moving through the world at it's own pre-set pace. Puzzles didn't cause too many issues and you generally knew what you needed to do next. The ending was a brutal switch-up from this and felt out of place aside from finishing off the story line. The mechanics of switching between the two characters was unique and worked well most of time, but when there were issues of your companion falling it was annoying. This makes me suggest doing coop play as it'll feel a lot more well rounded of an experience. I also noticed some issues of falling through walls or getting items stuck that I needed to progress though those were a small issue and not a big deal. The graphics were another thing I enjoyed being soft and simple, yet it would have been nice to have a little more going on in those open background landscapes. Also that bola tool was annoying, could have used a better aiming system as it never went where I wanted it to go.

External image


The Conclusion
With Never Alone there were two particular things that it did with perfection. Story and cooperative play, which it was very rich. Playing along there were some issues, but nothing really holding me back. I noticed some glitches and that weird difficulty spike from a rather calm game. The graphics were nice and soft, perhaps it may have been nice to have more going on as it was usually empty backgrounds. The spirit creatures were also strange, though they do make the game stand out from other titles. Gameplay wise I felt it could have been longer in terms of being a game and yet the story was well rounded within this period. It's a nice and easy going platform game about a region that's often completely neglected in the digital game world. Finally for all you completionists it's a quick and not very difficult set of achievements for you to collect.

Review of Mine from Gamerheadquarters.com
Gave Never Alone a 6.8/10
There are 6 comments relating to this Review | Please log in to comment on this solution.
Dear Hyped Jr
45,597 (27,517)
Dear Hyped Jr
TA Score for this game: 1,400
Posted on 02 July 15 at 02:43
This review has 5 positive votes and 6 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Gamer who's interested but not too sure whether to buy it? Here's a quick little review about Never Alone. If you are all about the story line of games, Never Alone is the perfect game for you. With many twists and turns, ups and downs, this story really makes you feel like you are one with the character, and I'm definitely not one to say that often. Be prepared for the unexpected in this story line. Although not too much realistic, definitely adorable and worth the buy. I encourage any one who doesn't know whether they should buy the game or not, to buy it. I'm not one to even rate games 5 stars, but this game is a must. Enjoy the game while you play! (By the way, also an EASY 1000 gamerscore!)
Please log in to comment on this solution.