Never Alone (video game)

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Never Alone
Never Alone Box Art, Box art 1080x1080.png
Developer(s)Upper One Games
Publisher(s)E-Line Media
Director(s)Sean Vesce
Producer(s)Matt Swanson
Designer(s)Grant Roberts
Programmer(s)David Koenig
Artist(s)Dima Veryovka
Writer(s)Ishmael Angaluuk Hope
EngineUnity
Platform(s)
ReleaseMicrosoft Windows
November 18, 2014
PlayStation 4
  • NA: November 18, 2014
  • EU: November 26, 2014[1]
  • JP: December 11, 2014
Xbox One
November 19, 2014
OS X
February 26, 2015
Wii U
  • NA: June 25, 2015
  • EU: July 9, 2015
PlayStation 3
  • EU: December 22, 2015
  • NA: December 23, 2015[2]
Linux
December 23, 2015
iOS
June 2, 2016
Android
June 22, 2016
Nintendo Switch
February 24, 2022
Genre(s)Puzzle-platformer
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Never Alone, also known as Kisima Inŋitchuŋa ("I am not alone"), is a puzzle-platformer adventure video game developed by Upper One Games and published by E-Line Media based on the traditional Iñupiaq tale, "Kunuuksaayuka", which was first recorded by master storyteller Robert Nasruk Cleveland in his collection Stories of the Black River People.[3] Swapping between an Iñupiaq girl named Nuna and her Arctic fox companion, the player completes puzzles in a story that spans eight chapters. The game was the result of a partnership between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and E-Line Media.[4] It is one of a growing number of video games produced by Indigenous people. A sequel was announced in February 2022.

Gameplay[edit]

The player-character plays as the Iñupiaq girl Nuna and her Arctic fox.[5] As an "atmospheric puzzle platformer",[6] Never Alone's puzzles entail swapping control between Nuna and the fox.[5] While the fox is fast, Nuna can pick up things and open new areas using her bola.[6] The story and its structure is based on the intergenerational transference of wisdom. Told in the form of an oral tale, unlike traditional platformer games, which involve overcoming obstacles and defeating enemies, Never Alone rewards players with collectible "cultural insights" - video vignettes of Iñupiaq elders, storytellers, and community members sharing their stories.[7] The central plot revolves around discovering the source of the blizzard that has ravaged Nuna's village and restoring balance to nature.[6] Other stories include that of Blizzard Man, the Little People, Manslayer, the Rolling Heads, and the Sky People. It takes place in a harsh physical environment.[8]

Development[edit]

Never Alone was developed by Upper One Games in conjunction with writer Ishmael Hope, a storyteller and poet of Iñupiaq and Tlingit heritage,[9][10] and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council,[8] a non-profit organization that works with indigenous groups living in Alaska's urban areas.[6] The Council partnered with video game education company E-Line Media and generated the idea for Never Alone as part of a series that "shares, celebrates, and extends [indigenous] culture".[6] The Council's for-profit Upper One Games is the "first indigenous-owned video game developer and publisher in US history".[6] They built the game to explore "what it means to be human" and intergenerational stories.[8] It is intended both to share the stories of native culture as entertainment, and to revitalize interest in Alaskan indigenous folklore.[6] Proceeds from the game will fund the Council's education mission.[6]

E-Line Creative Director Sean Vesce was excited by the opportunity to "go into a community, learn more about a culture and then try to infuse their values and mythologies into a game". Vesce and his team made "a dozen trips to Alaska"[11] to meet with community members and gather stories and imagery and was "blown away at the richness and beauty and depth of that storytelling tradition".[11] He realized that "none of that had really been ever explored in a videogame".[11] Vesce previously held leadership positions at Crystal Dynamics and Activision.[6] Vesce built and led a 12-member development team in Seattle, who worked in deep partnership with "40 Alaska Native elders, storytellers and community members" to craft the game.[12] Never Alone was built in the Unity game engine.[6] A local-cooperative mode is available.

Reception[edit]

Never Alone received many accolades including the British Academy Award for Best Debut[34] game and Game of the Year and Most Significant Impact[35] awards from the Games for Change organization. In 2015, Never Alone was also nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction[36] from D.I.C.E., Best Debut[37] from Game Developers Choice Awards, Matthew Crump Cultural Innovation Award from SXSW Gaming Awards. In 2014, Never Alone was an Official Selection Finalist at Indiecade.

Never Alone received "mixed or average" reviews, according to video game review aggregator Metacritic.[13][14][15][16][17]

Critics positively noted the game's art design, which blends a simple, cartoon style with scrimshaw influences. The included documentary videos were also remarked upon as "[leaving the player] feeling educated as well as entertained"[31] and "[doing] an excellent job of giving a cultural context"[22] for the game.

The platforming elements of Never Alone were more divisive. Some reviewers described the game as "frustrating", noting imprecise controls and inconsistent behavior by in-game characters.[22] However, other critics felt the gameplay was diverse and "satisfying".[25]

In 2022 the Museum of Modern Art included the game in their exhibition Never Alone: Video Games and Other Interactive Design .

Never Alone: Foxtales[edit]

The first expansion for the game, titled Never Alone: Foxtales, was announced on July 16, 2015. Adding new levels and expanding upon the story, the expansion was released worldwide on July 28, 2015, for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The expansion was also included with the base game at no additional cost for the Nintendo Switch on February 24, 2022.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gera, Emily (November 19, 2014). "Never Alone is delayed on PS4 in Europe". Polygon. Archived from the original on September 3, 2016. Retrieved November 19, 2014.
  2. ^ "Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) on PS3 - PlayStation®Store US". December 23, 2015. Archived from the original on May 12, 2016. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
  3. ^ "Never Alone - The Story of Kunuuksaayuka (Part One)". Never Alone. October 6, 2014. Archived from the original on November 25, 2016. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  4. ^ Parkinson, Hannah Jane (September 29, 2014). "Alaska's indigenous game Never Alone teaches co-operation through stories". The Guardian. Archived from the original on July 26, 2018. Retrieved July 1, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Karmali, Luke (May 8, 2014). "Never Alone is an atmospheric puzzle game exploring culture and folklore". IGN. Ziff Davis. Archived from the original on July 19, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j de Matos, Xav (March 19, 2014). "Sharing legends with the world in Never Alone, a game inspired by Alaskan Native communities". Joystiq. AOL Tech. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  7. ^ "Never Alone - Game". Never Alone. Archived from the original on November 22, 2016. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Farokhmanesh, Megan (May 9, 2014). "Never Alone's first trailer explains the importance of passing along wisdom". Polygon. Vox Media. Archived from the original on June 14, 2014. Retrieved June 23, 2014.
  9. ^ "Video games encourage Indigenous cultural expression". April 20, 2017. Archived from the original on October 6, 2017. Retrieved October 5, 2017.
  10. ^ Toensing, Gale Courey (January 27, 2011). "Ishmael Hope: Alaska Native Art & Culture Educator". Indian Country Today. Archived from the original on June 19, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  11. ^ a b c Bryant, Heather (August 23, 2014). "Native Stories from Alaska Give Gamers Something to Play With". NPR. Archived from the original on January 16, 2018. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  12. ^ "Never Alone (Kisimi Ingitchuba)". Games For Change. November 18, 2014. Archived from the original on January 16, 2018. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Never Alone for PlayStation 4 Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on April 12, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  14. ^ a b "Never Alone for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on February 17, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Never Alone for Wii U Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on June 27, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  16. ^ a b "Never Alone for Xbox One Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on February 21, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  17. ^ a b "Never Alone: Arctic Collection for Switch Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on March 3, 2022. Retrieved March 3, 2022.
  18. ^ Makedonski, Brett (November 18, 2014). "Review: Never Alone". Destructoid. Archived from the original on June 19, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  19. ^ Starkey, Daniel (November 20, 2014). "Never Alone Review". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on December 23, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  20. ^ Juba, Joe (December 16, 2014). "Never Alone Review". Game Informer. GameStop Corp. Archived from the original on March 9, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  21. ^ Almogi, Gil (December 4, 2014). "Never Alone: Kisima Ingitchuna Review". GameRevolution. Archived from the original on March 11, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  22. ^ a b c Hindes, Daniel (February 5, 2015). "Never Alone Review". GameSpot. Archived from the original on February 22, 2020. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  23. ^ Elliott, Matthew (November 17, 2014). "Never Alone review". GamesRadar+. Archived from the original on March 11, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  24. ^ Carlson, Alex (November 25, 2014). "Review: Never Alone". Hardcore Gamer. Archived from the original on June 19, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  25. ^ a b Conditt, Jessica (December 10, 2014). "Never Alone review: Into the storm". Joystiq. Archived from the original on March 16, 2015. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  26. ^ Meli, Jowi (June 24, 2015). "Never Alone Review (Wii U eShop)". Nintendo Life. Archived from the original on March 11, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  27. ^ Miller, Zachary (July 1, 2015). "Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) (Wii U) Review". Nintendo World Report. Archived from the original on January 12, 2019. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  28. ^ "Never Alone review". PC Gamer. Future plc. November 24, 2014. Archived from the original on March 8, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  29. ^ Banas, Graham (November 18, 2014). "Never Alone Review (PS4)". Push Square. Archived from the original on June 17, 2021. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  30. ^ McElroy, Justin (November 11, 2014). "Never Alone Review: Better Together". Polygon. Archived from the original on November 19, 2014. Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  31. ^ a b McEwen, Kirsty (December 3, 2014). "Never Alone review – captivating game about native Alaskan storytelling". The Guardian. Archived from the original on June 27, 2018. Retrieved December 3, 2014.
  32. ^ Musgrave, Shaun (June 10, 2016). "'Never Alone: Ki Edition' Review – Good Game, Great Experience". TouchArcade. Archived from the original on June 27, 2018. Retrieved June 27, 2018.
  33. ^ Valdes, Giancarlo (November 28, 2014). "Never Alone's technical flaws undermine its beautifully told story (review)". VentureBeat. Archived from the original on March 11, 2022. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  34. ^ "BAFTA Awards Search | BAFTA Awards". awards.bafta.org. Archived from the original on January 16, 2018. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  35. ^ "'Never Alone' Named Game of the Year at the 12th Annual Games for Change Festival | Games for Change". Games for Change. April 22, 2015. Archived from the original on January 16, 2018. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  36. ^ "2015 DICE Award nominations led by Shadow of Mordor". Engadget. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. Retrieved January 16, 2018.
  37. ^ "Game Developers Choice Awards". www.gamechoiceawards.com. Archived from the original on March 21, 2019. Retrieved January 16, 2018.

External links[edit]