A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Never Alone is a downloadable action-adventure game that teaches about Inupiaq culture through a traditional story with multiple instances of violence. The heroine, a young girl around 10, leaves her village by herself in a terrible snowstorm and partners with a snow fox to save her people; she's threatened by dangerous wildlife, a violent man, and a collection of head-hunting ghosts. There are many ways for her to die, including fire, falling, drowning, and being battered by a polar bear or the villain (an adult male). Like many traditional fairy tales, this teaches its lessons by putting its heroine in danger, then showing how her wits and courage help her to overcome her situation, along with her newfound friend. This game can also be downloaded as an app for phones or tablets.
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What's it about?
NEVER ALONE is an adaptation of a traditional Inupiaq legend (told by an elder in his own language with English subtitles) wherein a village is tormented by a never-ending blizzard. One of the villagers -- in this version, a young girl named Nuna -- decides to to stop the blizzard and sets out to find its source. Along the way, she makes friends with a pretty white snow fox, and the two use their combined ingenuity to overcome various obstacles. The main complication (aside from hurricane-strong winds) of Nuna's quest is an evil villain called the "Manslayer" who represents a kind of chaotic violence that's set to destroy man's livelihood and civilization. As the game is played, short one- to two-minute videos are unlocked, providing information about the historical and modern life of the Inupiaq people, as well as elements behind the story.
Is it any good?
Never Alone offers beautifully handled single-player or two-player cooperative play, with each character using unique abilities: Nuna uses a bola to destroy barriers, while the fox can climb higher and enlist the help of magical Nature spirits. Beyond interesting playable characters, the coolest thing about Never Alone is the way action is motivated by the arctic environment. The game takes place during a blizzard, so the wind has a strong effect on your progress. It makes for more entertaining and challenging navigation. Also, the game looks gorgeous. Expressing beauty is clearly intentional in Never Alone, although it's a stark kind of beauty. The graphics alternate between delicately handled 3-D models and a more illustrative approach that looks like ancient cave paintings. The styles are surprisingly complementary and effectively communicate the true heart of the tale.
Never Alone's main problems are its inconsistent "follow" function and occasional misdirection. The first is a single-player problem that happens when the following character does stupid things like throw him or herself off a cliff. Clearly, the follower should be smart enough to wait to progress safely, but, alas, it isn't always so. The second problem occurs when your path of progression is unclear. This happens a handful of times and results in many untimely deaths. Fortunately, it's not a huge problem thanks to many closely spaced checkpoints and a fast reload. Overall, Never Alone is both good and good for you. Enhanced by a rich, rarely seen cultural tradition, it represents a near-ideal blend of beauty, educational information, and fun. This kind of game should come along more often.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of the individual within the community. What role do you play in your family? In your community?
Discuss the kinds of things we can learn from animals. What do animals do better than we do? Are there things you wish you could do that an animal can do?
Think about how the weather affects a community's activities. How does the weather change what you do throughout the year?
- Platforms: Nintendo Wii U, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Subjects: Social Studies: citizenship, cultural understanding, geography, global awareness, history
- Price: $4.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: E-Line Media
- Release date: November 18, 2014
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Fairy Tales, Great Girl Role Models, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Wild Animals
- ESRB rating: T for Violence
- Last updated: May 28, 2018
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.