by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Best Friends Forever
The dependence is never more important than when completing the puzzle portion of the game. Nuna and Fox each have their own unique skills that are required to be accessed in order to solve the puzzles. Fox is more agile and can jump higher and can interact with the spirits, whilst Nuna can interact with inanimate objects and can fire her Bola (a slingshot-like weapon) at enemies and certain sections of the landscape. Some of the puzzles require quickly switching between the two and it is at these points where the co-op mode could be beneficial.
The controls are quite intuitive and there are only a small number of moves to learn. I personally found it easier playing with the controller than with the keyboard and mouse as it felt like a better fit with the side-scrolling platforming. The controls are smooth and responsive, and although there were a couple of times where I was frustrated that either Nuna or Fox had perished, it was not the fault of the control scheme.
As the game progresses, Nuna will come across special owls, sitting on logs or trees. These owls act as bonuses and show a short documentary-style video based around a certain aspect of Inupiat culture. It is through these cut-scenes that the tribe's elders hope to teach the Inupiat youth. It's a system that works well, giving the player a challenge in collecting all 24 videos. Some are hidden away, requiring frequent searches to complete all achievements.
The Arctic setting means that there is often little colour, giving the game a somewhat Limbo-esque feel. For the most part, the game is filled with white snow and dark brooding skies. The water levels do add some blues into the mix as well but do little to cheer up the mood. In fact, the blandness gives off a feeling of desperation, one that you hope to end when Nuna finds the source of the blizzard. The cut-scenes on the other hand, are simply wonderful. Sepia-tone animated scenes further the story of Nuna and the blizzard and they work amazingly well, befitting the feel of message being told by the Inupiat tribe.
The message is often given via a fully voiced dialogue. The game could have succeeded with simple on screen text, but the voice-over work just helps to remind you that the story has been passed down from one generation to the next for hundreds of years. The background music does the same proud too, giving it an authentic Inupiat touch. OK, I'm not exactly sure what Inupiat music sounds like, but it sure feels authentic.
Although Never Alone began life as a learning tool for the Inupiat youth, the game is definitely entertaining. The story of Nuna, her Fox and their inseparable friendship is an emotional one. The wonderfully animated cut-scenes give background to a compelling story, as do the documentary style videos. My only real complaint - apart from dying when falling into the water while Nuna and Fox are able to swim in the water level - was that the game is a little short with around 4 hours of gameplay. Yet for the story and the Inupiat culture lesson alone, Never Alone is well worth checking out.
Wonderful story, great interaction between the two main characters.
Not an overly long game.