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13 Mar 2023

REVIEW: Never Alone: Arctic Collection - Nintendo Switch

Review by Jon Donnis
Never Alone is a platform/puzzle game, developed in full collaboration with the Iñupiat, an Alaska Native people. 40 members of the Iñupiat contributed to the game. And includes the Foxtales DLC that was originally released on PC.

You play as Nuna and a friendly Fox, you are in search of the source of the blizzard that threatens the very survival of everything they know. Set in the Arctic, the world around you is very harsh, and it will take smarts to survive and progress.

Switch between controlling Nuna or the Fox, to help you navigate through the landscape, solve puzzles, and evade various creatures. The further your make your way across the frozen landscapes, and underground passages, the more you will find out. At its base the game is a platforming game, but you will find yourself running from Polar Bears, swimming under ice cold water in underground caves, climbing, jumping and running. You can play with a friend controlling one character and you the other, but in single player mode, you can simply switch between Nuna or the Fox, depending on the challenge ahead. The fox for example can crawl through small gaps, run faster and jump higher. You might need the Fox to reach an area and then let down a rope for Nuna to use to climb up.

Nuna has their own benefits, they can move heavy objects, swim under water, and throw a "bola" at targets to help you solve puzzles, The bola is a kind of slingshot. Maybe use it to break some ice blocking the way, or to distract a polar bear.

You will also come across Helping Spirits, which in communication with the fox, can also help you navigate around a level and reach a higher platform.

One of the interesting parts of the game is that as you play you will unlock video clips. These clips feature the Alaskan Native people and historians as they share stories about their culture, beliefs, as well as the Arctic surroundings. With over 30 minutes of interviews and clips to unlock, this is a welcome addition to the game, that really allows you to learn about a culture as well as just play a game.

Although the game is relatively short, the fact you are learning as you play, it really gives you a fulfilling feeling, it's just more than a platform game.

The graphics are beautiful, the sound effects are spot on, and when you are involved in a moment of action, or tension, the music kicks in and really helps you feel part of the game.

With all this said, there are a few problems with the game itself. The platforming elements can be a bit hit and miss at times. There are a few moments where I found myself in something of a death loop. For example when you die you respawn, but because two characters are respawning instead of one, I found one point where every time I respawned, the fox would instantly die due to the location he was respawning, and it was only after countless attempts to quickly take control of the fox, and with a bit of luck was I able to escape the loop.

The Good
The graphics and storytelling aspects of the game are of the highest quality. And if you have any interest in Native peoples, then the Iñupiat are a fascinating group to learn about.

The Bad
Some of the platforming elements are lacking, and really should be better.

Despite the few problems, I enjoyed this game a lot, and really felt like I learned something while playing.

I score Never Alone on Nintendo Switch a solid 7/10

Out Now On Nintendo Switch

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