Never Alone – Steam Backlog Bonanza [Blaugust 28]

753 words.

Yesterday for the Steam Backlog Bonanza, I played a game called Never Alone. It was released in 2014, but I couldn’t find any record of when I bought it or for how much. This is the most interesting game in the list so far.

I had been looking forward to this one, and dreading it at the same time. I knew it was a game that involved a story with an animal companion (a fox, in this case). I usually can’t watch stories with animal companions, because I get way too emotional about them. I played that game with the mama lynx and her babies [Shelter 2, a lovely game] exactly one time and didn’t dare to play it again. I was afraid I was going to blubber all over my live stream with this one.

Well, I was right to worry. It’s really hard not to get sucked right into this one. There’s so much culture and art within that my eyes were glued to the screen the whole time. Fortunately it’s not as heartwrenching as watching your baby lynx kittens starve to death, mewling for food. At least not in the first hour.

Never Alone is a fantastic game. And when I say “game” I mostly mean documentary.

The cultural insight videos are live-action documentary clips.

The basic idea is that you’re acting out the story of a girl and fox told by an old Iñupiat storyteller. At certain points in the story, you can choose to display what they call “cultural insights,” which plays a documentary-style video about the Iñupiat culture in northern Alaska. It’s fascinating stuff. You don’t have to play them, though, if you just want to focus on the game.

The game itself is a side-scrolling puzzle game. You control a girl and a fox, traveling across a winter landscape navigating various obstacles. The girl and the fox have to work together to get through the puzzles. They each have different capabilities. It can be played co-op with two people, otherwise you switch which character you’re controlling with a button. The character animations are just adorable. The girl is adorable. The fox is adorable. The landscapes and the world and the story is simple and beautiful.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like side-scrolling games, but in this case I can easily overlook that for all the inventive story and culturally significant information.

Nuna and Fox, idling.

Be warned: If you mess up and the fox dies, the girl drops to her knees and cries before you’re sent back to the last checkpoint. It’s heartbreaking. If you mess up and the girl dies, the fox makes an even more pitiful whimpering sound. It’s just awful. You don’t want to mess up and get either of them killed.

I only have two complaints about the game. The first is that, while I loved the documentary-style cultural insights, they did break up the flow of the game, and vice versa. I wanted to either sit and watch a full documentary, or else play the game. Splitting time between the two felt a bit awkward.

The second complaint is that it was really hard to control the bolas. It was the most bizarre and unintuitive controller scheme I can recall seeing. You have to pull the left analog stick one way, then rotate it around to aim, then push the stick the opposite way (but not the direction you’re actually aiming). It took a lot of careful study and practice to figure that one out. There’s one point you have to use the bolas while you’re being chased, and it’s really hard to do. It’s a serious hand-eye coordination test.

Trying to work a bolas while running for your life.

Other than that I really enjoyed my time in the game. I only stopped because I can only sit in a chair for about an hour before starting to get really uncomfortable and distracted.

Will I play more? Almost certainly. It’s definitely the best game in the Steam Backlog Bonanza so far. A real gem. Way better than WoW Classic. :)

Live Stream - Never Alone

Stream Production Notes: Not much to report. I was so absorbed in the game that I completely forgot I was streaming for the majority of it. I had to pause in the middle because my cat was outside the window begging to come inside, in a way that is impossible to ignore.

Previously on the Steam Backlog Bonanza: Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

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