Never Alone – Beautiful Story with Frustrating Controls
Never Alone is an incredibly beautiful game. It’s very simple, but this works to its advantage as Nuna’s story encompasses what this game is about. However, whilst the story is emotive and beautiful, it is out shadowed time and time again by the controls. What should be a simple jump from one platform to another turns into a frustrating battle of wills as you repeat sections time and time again for something that should take seconds. Unfortunately, the control issue in Never Alone subtracts from the story, and I find this quite sad.
As you start Never Alone you’ll enter into a basic side scrolling platform adventure with all the basic controls we’re all used to: think jumps, climbing, and pulling crates. There aren’t any proper tutorials in the game, but you’re eased into everything gently so you never find yourself wondering what to do.
However, whilst you should be enjoying the story of Nuna and her cute animal companion Fox, it doesn’t take long before you’ll be ready to throw your controller across the room in sheer frustration. I’m not sure whether playing multiplayer would have been easier, but as a single player, I found it incredibly frustrating when either Nuna or Fox couldn’t make what should have been a basic jump. During a lot of sections of the game it really is luck as to whether the computer’s AI will decide to actually do what you expect it to.
The irritation with Never Alone comes and goes, and if you’re anything like me you’ll begin to enjoy the game again only to encounter another simple hurdle that turns into a 20 minute exercise of trying to get both Nuna and Fox through safely. In fact, as I type this, I’ve been working on a basic hurdle towards the end of the game that I’ve had to take a break from to regain my composure. Whilst I don’t profess to know what the game designers wanted to achieve from Never Alone, I’m pretty sure that a bunch of frustrated gamers probably wasn’t what they were aiming for.
Never Alone does have some redeeming qualities. It beautifully reflects the aspects of a different culture that I’m going to hazard a guess that most gamers don’t really know a lot about. As you work through the game, you’ll unlock ‘cultural insights’ which are really nice short videos that show you more about the Inuit culture, and explain more about the game that you are playing. It’s very rare that a video game does this and it’s clear that the developers have put a lot of thought and sensitivity into it.
Unfortunately, when I started playing Never Alone I thought it would be an ideal game to introduce to my 5 year old nephew. And whilst that should have been the case, the unnecessary difficulty of the game makes me unwilling to share it with him, as what is mere frustration to me will be pretty much impossible for him. That’s a shame. That said, Never Alone is unique in its style, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to play it.
Never Alone is available for the Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, WiiU, and PC. It currently has an RRP of £11.99.