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Posted September 27, 2014 by Zeth in EGX
 
 

Never Alone Hands-On Preview

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Never Alone is an absolute treat. One of those things that you’ve maybe missed in the run-up to the end of the year. Previous titles to sneak up like that, for instance Unfinished Swan, have left a long and lasting impression.

Same can be said with Upper One Games’ upcoming puzzle-platformer Never Alone. Where those other titles used striking and differentiating visuals to grab your attention, so does Never Alone.   The artwork is reminiscent of other titles like Rain or Limbo but once you peel away the grey film grain and soft focus the actual art design beneath is very striking and unique.

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The main character, a young Alaskan Native girl (actually called Girl!), has been incredibly well realise and animated. As has her trusty white fox that accompanies her throughout. The game is structured with a “move from left to right” mentality. To do this though you have to navigate many jumps, swings and clambers over the varying environmental objects spread throughout the levels.  Controls are solid if a touch imprecise at time (this is evident in Fox over jumping or just edging off a platform at times) yet overall the gameplay feels tight enough that mostly you feel deaths are your issue not the games.  With a bit of time before release we’re sure these things will get polished out.

Never Alone can be played as a single player experience or a local co-op one. In single player you swap characters using a button press. As the fox you can scramble up vertical objects allowing you to reach areas that the girl can’t.  By working together you can use Fox and Girl to reach areas you can’t alone. For instance in the sections we played you use Girl to pull a crate with a small wooden platform attached to it. As you drag that across a gap Fox can then jump on it and ride it to safety. Fox can then jump up and hold the box steady at the top of a slope so Girl can get to a higher ledge.  Or Girl awaits one side of an open area on a platform whilst Fox traverses the obstacles and scrabbles up a wall.  Fox then lands on a platform that causes a larger section to tumble slightly meaning Girl can now make the jump across the gap.  Simple yet rewarding.

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It’s the simple give and take harmony of Fox and Girl that compels you to explore further and further. Girl is trying to save her tribe from a never ending blizzard. She embarks on this quest through the harsh and frozen landscape of Alaska. The story she embarks on has been built in collaboration with the Alaskan Native community (the Iñupiat people of the Arctic to be precise) and is inspired by Kunuuksaayuka – a legend in the tribes revolving around and endless blizzard.  It’s the earnest use of this storytelling combined with the unique and authentic look that makes the narrative structure and cohesion in Never Alone so compelling and well done.

Combine the unique story telling, the strong visuals, sense of discovery and mankind against Nature ethos you have a recipe for something unique.  The atmosphere just drips from the screen.  Add these together along with the enjoyable co-operative play and it all builds together to make something that could be one of the sleeper hits of 2014. Only reservations at this time are this is but a small slice. Things could get repetitive if variety is not present in later sections. I’m also unsure the flow of play will be as satisfying in single player as it was in the two-player sessions we tried.   With two players there was a lovely natural flow to the game. This is a little more stop/start when taking on the game in single player. Time will tell if this is a factor or not.

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Never alone is due out on PS4, Xbox One and PC on November 18th 2014. From the 20 minutes or so of play we experienced I’d certainly say it’s one of the titles to look out for this holiday season and a sure fire selection for hidden gem of 2014 if the finished product continues the solid slice on show when we played it.

 


Zeth

 
Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.