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Video Game / Never Alone

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Never Alone (Iñupiaq: Kisima Ingitchuna) is a Co-Op Multiplayer / single player 2½D Puzzle Platformer built on the Unity engine by Upper One Games and E-Line Media. This game is the first game in E-Line Media's series of World Games, Edutainment titles intended to expose gamers to varied world cultures. Upper One Games is based in Anchorage, Alaska, and Never Alone was created in close cooperation with elders and storytellers from the Iñupiat people of northern Alaska.

The protagonist is a young Iñupiaq girl named Nuna. With the assistance of her new-found companion, an arctic fox, she sets out to find the source of the endless blizzard that has left the people of her village unable to hunt and on the verge of starvation. Along the way, they unlock Cultural Insights—video clips with discussions from Iñupiaq ambassadors reflecting primarily on their beliefs and old ways of life—by finding owls in the world. The story is an adaptation of the traditional oral story of Kunuuksaayuka.

Never Alone is available for PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC through and Steam. On July 28th, Never Alone: Foxtales DLC was also added to the game.

Never Alone contains examples of:

  • The Ace: Nuna is noted as being among the best hunters in her village during the opening narration.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: At the finale, the girl ruins the giant's adze before returning it. Yet instead of being enraged, the giant laughs and sends caribou to the village after he leaves. This is because "Give it Back" and "Chip the Blade" is a pun in Iñupiaq.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: Fleeing home at the climax, with a wall of snow at your heels.
  • Air-Aided Acrobatics: Timing jumps according to gusts of wind is a core mechanic.
  • Alternate Continuity: The Foxtales DLC is simply an adaptation of another oral tale, without any connection to the main single-player campaign, which would explain why Fox is still in his animal form.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: The fox is very much just an ordinary fox that nevertheless chose to help Nuna and accompany her on her quest. A Cultural Insight reveals how the Iñupiat assign a degree of intelligence to animals that Western cultures generally don't.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If playing as single player, if you make a jump with one partner, the other partner will often make the jump correctly. This is especially useful if you are more used to the nimble fox.
    • Fail at a puzzle enough and the game will actually show what you are supposed to do.
    • The Manslayer boss fight gives you checkpoints mid-boss fight.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In single player, the AI that controls whichever character you're not currently running is disturbingly prone to causing them to miss a jump and fall to their death.
  • Battle Bolas: Nuna uses bolas (Iñupiaq: kilauwitawinmium) to help her and the arctic fox traverse to break ice and activate spirits to help solve the puzzles found in the game.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Polar bears threaten the pair on a regular basis throughout the game.
  • Big Bad: The Manslayer, a "terrible man" who pursues Nuna's bolas through much of the story. He is dropped through the ice to his death before the end. No, he's not the one responsible for the blizzards.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Virtually all of the dialogue (most of it narration) of the game is in the Iñupiaq language, a language spoken by only about 9,300 people in the world and mainly in Northern Alaska. This game is something of a rarity among American-produced videogames, even independent games, as the only spoken English in the game is in the game's main menu and the unlockable cultural insight videos. This game might even possibly be the first videogame to be completely in an American Indian/Alaskan Native language. Even the game's title, "Kisima Inŋitchuŋa" is literally translated as "I am never alone."
  • Boss-Arena Idiocy: Once the Manslayer finally gets Nuna cornered, he stands on a sheet of ice directly below her, throwing fireballs straight up toward very heavy and very flammable trees.
  • Block Puzzle: Cages can be pushed around to create platforms or to use as weights.
  • Came Back Strong: After being killed by the Manslayer the Fox is reborn as a spirit.
  • Classic Villain: Where Nuna and Fox are physically small characters who accomplish things by their wits and by working together, the Manslayer is a big, hulking a man who works alone and depends on brute force. Nuna is also motivated by concern for her community and Fox by his friendship with Nuna, while the Manslayer is motivated by selfish greed.
  • Colossus Climb: Up an ice-giant's body to steal his adze and stop him from creating more blizzards.
  • Cool Boat: The umiaq (sealskin canoe) Nuna uses in the Foxtales DLC.
  • Determinator: The Manslayer is bent on finding the bolas for unknown reasons, and destroys at least two villages looking for it. The bear is similarly unrelenting, appearing three times in pursuit of the protagonists, which is Truth in Television: satisfactory prey is rare enough that polar bears will chase them for as long as they feasibly can.
  • Edutainment Game: The Cultural Insights, a kind of ethnographic Documentary in-game, make this explicit, but the narrative of the game itself reflects Iñupiaq values and makes them accessible to outsiders.
  • Endless Blizzard: Status quo at the start of the game, and the reason Nuna set out from her village.
  • Epigraph: Each chapter is prefaced by a paragraph of text from a translation of the original story.
  • Eskimo Land: A curious example. The game is an adaptation of a traditional oral story and is therefore set in a pre-Western arctic Alaska, and Nuna and her people subsist on hunting and wear caribou fur parkas. The developers have gone to great lengths to ensure that none of this is portrayed stereotypically, however.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: The Arctic is a brutal place to make a living.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Played straight with the Manslayer. He has crocodile-like teeth in his mouth.
  • Fantastic Foxes: The fox serves the role of a spiritual guide. Spirit Helpers appear near the fox, and the fox is able to affect their movements. A Cultural Insight reflects on the way foxes can help to keep people out of trouble in the arctic.
  • Feminist Fantasy: The creators decided to make the protagonist a girl, because they wanted to address the lack of positive female characters in video games.
  • Fireballs: The Manslayer's particular special ability.
  • Fission Mailed: The Manslayer catches up to the pair and captures the fox. Attempting to give the bolas to the Manslayer smacks him instead and he kills the fox out of spite. Nuna falls into an abyss as the spirit helper holding her up fades with the fox's death.
  • For the Evulz: This the reason why the Manslayer kills the fox and destroys Nuna's village.
  • Frictionless Ice: Generally results in sliding down slopes. It's impossible to reverse direction once this sets in.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: The fox, reborn in his spirit form after the Manslayer kills him, cannot be harmed or killed in any way - at least until the Northern Lights spirits show up.
  • Gender Flip:
    • The eponymous protagonist of Kunuuksaayuka is a man.
    • Similarly, the Foxtales DLC is based on the oral tale “The Two Coastal Brothers”, which starred two brothers rather than a girl and a fox.
  • Gusty Glade: Throughout most of the game there are periodic gusts of wind that must be anticipated in order to jump farther or not be impeded at an inopportune time. The Foxtales DLC uses ocean currents to a similar end.
  • Hammerspace: According to the narrative, Nuna steals the giant's adze and runs away with it. But since the adze is shown in-game as being much, much larger than she is, this isn't really plausible. After "stealing" the adze, it never appears in gameplay again, suggesting she's carrying it in some metaphysical way.
  • In Harmony with Nature: A necessary virtue of a heroic figure in this tradition. Notably, however, Nuna is NOT a Friend to All Living Things. She is a skilled hunter, and the natural environment she inhabits is no friend to the unwary. The Cultural Insights explain that every living being should be respected and a hunt should only be for food (with one explaining how a hunter that accidentally killed a mother polar bear was forced by the tribe to then care for the cub).
  • Kid Hero: A notably humble example, immersed in an environment of a scale beyond human comprehension.
  • MacGuffin: It is never revealed in the story why the Manslayer is so desperate to obtain the bolas. This may be intentional: the reason for this is not nearly as important to the story as the petty, hard-headed, destructive avarice that he embodies.
  • Meaningful Background Event:
    • In the first level, while Nuna is being chased by a bear the fox can be seen in the background running to catch up to them.
    • In the Foxtales DLC, several times the giant mouse appears in the distance, and usually roars or chomps its teeth before disappearing again.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Manslayer.
  • Not Always Evil: The Cultural Insight on the Little People reveals that they are sometimes harmful, sometimes helpful, sometimes just mischievous. The ones you meet in the game all seem to be of the "harmful" kind, unfortunately.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The cause of the blizzard turns out to be a giant made of ice being reckless about where he's shoveling snow he's clearing.
  • Please Wake Up: Nuna does this after the Manslayer kills the fox. He gets better.
  • Plucky Girl: Nuna is a kind and cheerful girl who ventures into the wilderness, by herself, to save her village.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Quite literally, using the Cultural Insights.
    • Inverted, from a certain point of view. The team set out to make a game out of the folk story only after they had done their research.
  • Sidetrack Bonus: Most Cultural Insights are obtained from the general course of the level, but a few are a bit out of the way and occasionally more dangerous to get to.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: As if you weren't expecting this. There's actually rather little slipping, though.
  • Super Drowning Skills: Justified for the bulk of the game, as immersion in icy arctic waters when the air temperature is below freezing is quickly fatal.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Reserved for little girls and arctic foxes who are swallowed by giant whales made of ice. Lampshaded by the narrator. Also used in most of the Foxtales DLC, where the duo can stay underwater indefinitely while they solve puzzles, here justified by the "brothers" being amazing swimmers.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: That polar bear. Lampshaded by the narrator, and at least plausible considering how scarce food can be in the Arctic.
  • The Hero's Journey: Unsurprisingly as it's based on a folk tale, the story is a perfect representation of the hero cycle.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Whenever one of the protagonists dies, the other cries in despair before the level resets. Can get annoying, however, if you're stuck and keep dying over and over.
  • Voice Grunting: Most characters don't speak so much as accompany narration (except for the Manslayer for whatever reason). What little voice acting exists otherwise amounts to this.
  • Wall Jump: The fox is uniquely capable of this. Nuna can jump backwards off of ropes and ladders, though.
  • Wall Run: Ditto, but for short distances.