If there’s one thing I love about being an X-box Gold Member is the free games that are released every month. So I logged on to see what was on for the month of December. There was one of my favorite X-box classics, Mercenaries Playground of Destruction where you play as one of three mercenaries in a highly destructible environment. There was also Q.U.B.E. 2 which has a bit of Portal feel as it’s a first-person puzzle solver. Then there was Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna).
Never Alone is a side-scrolling platformer in a similar vein to Unravel, Limbo, or Inside. And it also has the aesthetic beauty to match. But what makes Never Alone truly unique, especially in a time where AAA gaming companies are being met with plenty of public backlashes, is its story. The story of Never Alone is a folktale from the Iñupiat, a Native Alaskan tribe, and it’s not just a story about them, it’s told by them. As you play this game it is narrated by a tribal elder in their natural language. This adds more investment into the immersion of the story.
The story is of a young Iñupiat girl who goes on a quest. Along the way, she befriends an arctic fox as she tries to find the source of a never-ending blizzard. The game can be played in either solo or co-op gameplay controlling the girl or the fox. In the solo gameplay, the player can switch between the two characters with ease.
However, don’t assume that this game is a simple platformer. This game can have a few rage-inducing moments as you try to solve a level or beat the timing as the pace picks up. But I think this is positive. I’m all for games that require critical thinking and aren’t just shooters. In fact, I would say this is a great game to play as a family with children.
Children can have fun with this game and admire its beauty. There is beauty of the arctic landscape and the traditional Iñupiat art style that’s used for cutscenes. But this game is also very educational. The developers teamed up with Iñupiat people to get proper insight to tell this story. Not just the story itself, but the culture of the people. On top of the game having achievements, there are also these small videos of interviews with the Iñupiat that assisted in the game making that get unlocked as you progress in the story.
These videos offer some real sincerity to what the developers wanted to do with the game and are reflected on their website.
“Never Alone leverages the power of videogames to share, celebrate and extend culture. These World Games will empower indigenous communities around the world to share their stories in an authentic, engaging, and entertaining way.”
This idea of education mixed with entertainment and engagement is what make Never Alone a great game. The exploration of a unique culture across beautifully designed landscapes makes the game so captivating. I hope this is a trend that continues. Having games that tell folktales of various culture is a way to keep these cultures alive and let the rest of the world in on their life.
Never Alone offers a fun game that tells a unique story with a breathtaking art style. By about 15 minutes in you’ll be wanting an arctic fox friend as well. Never Alone is 4.5 out of 5. Get it for free on X-box Gold till January 15th. It’s also available on PC, PlayStation, Wii U, the Google Play store, and the Apple Store for around $15.