Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) Review

Lee Bradley

Never Alone’s Nuna is cute as a button. Wrapped in a caribou fur coat, trudging through the snow with her pigtails swinging in the wind, it’s difficult not to be completely charmed by her. It’s part of what makes Never Alone such an endearing game, despite its massive shortcomings.

Nuna is a young Iñupiat girl who sets off into the Alaskan wilderness to to discover the source of a blizzard that’s threatening her village. Drawing on Iñupiat folklore, Nuna’s adventure takes her on a journey across the frozen tundra, encompassing encounters with spirits, polar bears and a cuddly little Arctic fox who becomes her companion and guide.

One girl and her fox.

It is, essentially, a puzzle platformer, in which you control Nuna and the fox as they battle through the icy wind (alternatively, you can control one character each in co-op). It’s an attractive game with some excellent animation, sonorous Iñupiat narration and a lonely, sombre tone that fits the story perfectly. But as a game, mechanically, Never Alone is poor.

It doesn’t help that you’ve played this kind of game a million times before. Never Alone asks the player to wall jump, drag boxes and leap from crumbling platforms by taking advantage of Nuna and the fox’s unique skills. Nuna, for instance, can use a native throwing weapon called a bola to destroy walls of ice, while the fox can communicate with spirits to open up new paths to the player. But it’s all rather uninspired. Some vaguely interesting mechanics are introduced later in the game, but it’s hard to shake the feeling of over-familiarity. 

Piling on the problems, Never Alone’s jumping feels a little imprecise and the puzzles, especially later on, break their own rules and punish you for things you have no way of anticipating. It can be frustrating. Never Alone is not a difficult game, but it can be annoying. It’s also super short. You can blast through it all in less than three hours.

Sometimes the blizzard gets really fierce.

Yet Never Alone isn’t a complete loss. As well as its Iñupiat-inspired story and evocative art style, the game features a series of micro-documentaries covering aspects of Iñupiat life. It’s fascinating; a glimpse of a dying culture. Created in collaboration with Alaskan native storytellers and elders, Never Alone aims to be educational as well as entertaining. It’s just a shame that it falls short of achieving the latter.

But then there’s always Nuna. As soon as you see her bracing herself against the howling wind, you’ll want to look after her. Framed by the hostile environment she looks so fragile and vulnerable. Never Alone isn’t a good game, but it’s got a lot of heart. Difficult to wholeheartedly recommend, it’s a game I’m nevertheless glad to have experienced.


The minimal soundtrack and whistling wind help create a sense of an empty, unforgiving wilderness, while the Iñupiat narrator adds warmth and character.

Nuna is wonderfully animated and the art style, especially in the cutscenes, draws on the game’s Iñupiat inspiration to good effect.

Occasionally unresponsive controls, and puzzles that are at turns uninspired and frustrating, hold Never Alone back.

Never Alone is incredibly short and offers up little or no reason to replay. The micro-documentaries about Iñupiat life and culture are a nice addition.

You’ll get most of the achievements just for completing the game, with the rest dished out for watching the micro-documentaries and discovering some easy-to-find collectibles. Poor.

Never Alone isn’t without its merits. Telling an interesting story of a dying culture, it’s a hugely flawed game that manages to conjure warmth in the icy cold.

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