There are a ton of great games at EGX London this year, and a fair few of them are the big releases of the next year. So I guess it’s a bit strange for me to say that Never Alone has stolen the show, for me at least. Yet despite all of the glitz and glamour of the triple A titles, I can’t help but feel as though my heart has been snatched by a wonderful little game. It’s not often that I get this passionate about a game, let alone an ‘indie’ game for that matter. But, somehow, I have been wooed, mesmerised and downright impressed by ‘Never Alone’.
Never Alone seems like a relatively simple game on the surface, but at its heart it is a diverse, intricate and incredibly layered title. Obviously, I didn’t get all of this from just playing ten minutes of the gameplay demo at EGX, although it definitely helped cement my belief that the game is going to be something special. No, a lot of my love for this game has come from my prior research and from chats with those involved in its creation. Never Alone is a very unique game. Well, the bare bones aren’t exactly ‘revolutionary’, you’re never going to change the world by messing with the classic puzzle platformer genre. The game’s uniqueness isn’t found in the actual gameplay, it’s found in the concept, the story and the style.
Based in the cold, harsh and unforgiving climate of Alaska, Never Alone, in its most basic form, is a puzzle platformer much like Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. Playing as ‘Girl’ or ‘Fox’, the player must get from A to B by overcoming the obstacles laid out in front of them. By using Fox to scramble over or underneath barriers, the player is then able to traverse the level with Girl, as Fox helps her to uncover hidden paths (much like Max and his Magic Marker). But, Fox needs Girl as much as Girl needs Fox, as she has the ability to unlock new areas and pick up items. By just reading that, you might wonder why I’m so excited by a game that sounds so basic. However, there is nothing basic about this gem.
The real magic of Never Alone comes from its story, which is based on Alaskan folklore and inspired by the Iñuipaq Storytelling Tradition. Now, I guess I should give a little context as to why this excites me so much. As my main job, I work in a museum in London. I spend my days doing bits and bobs around the museum that need doing (the unglamorous life of a museum professional) but, every now and then, I get to talk to people about the history and the culture that the museum displays. I love exploring world cultures and I love sharing them with visitors. So, when two of my passions combine together (gaming and culture / history) I get pretty damned excited. We live in a world full of amazing people with incredible histories. This is a world packed to the brim with culture. So I will jump on any chance to experience these cultures, and especially so when these cultures are infused into video-games.
This infusion of culture and gaming really stands out in Never Alone, and to me, is makes it feel like an incredibly personal game. When I played it, I wasn’t just playing a puzzle platformer. No, when I played the game I was playing through a slice of the past. I was experiencing generations’ worth of culture, stories that have been passed down from parent to child for what could seem like an eternity. These stories would help explain these people’s lives, where they have come from and how they got there. When you experience another culture in such a way, you’re being invited to share hundreds of years worth of history and folklore – and that’s something that I think is incredibly special.
As a game experience, Never Alone was very fun. But, as a story and a narrative, and as a sneak peak into hundreds of years worth of folklore, Never Alone is incredibly powerful. That’s why I’ve fallen in love with this game and that’s why, for me, the game is scores more impressive than the next COD or the latest FIFA.