September 2, 2014 7:20 PM | Anthony Swinnich
I will freely admit that I am uneducated when it comes to Iñupiat folklore. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's possible many people are. We all might learn a thing or two now that Upper One Games is drawing upon their Alaskan roots to pass along an unipkaaq to a new generation through Never Alone. The game's latest build was available at PAX Prime and I was fortunate enough to spend some time with it.
An unipkaaq is a legend, and Never Alone is based specifically on the tale of Kunuuksaayuka. An endless blizzard is threatening the well-being of the village. You take control of Girl and Fox and set out on a journey to locate the source of this storm and put an end to it.
It's important to note that both Girl and Fox are on screen simultaneously, allowing for character-switching single player or full co-op. Fox is agile and can wall jump, and can squeeze into tight spaces the girl can not. Fox is also able to awaken great spirits which Girl can climb or ride to reach new areas. The demo didn't allow Girl to showcase any unique abilities, so my partner and I switched controllers as we played. No matter which character you play as, the platforming feels solid.
The frozen tundra fees genuinely cold and desolate, a credit to the craftsmanship of Upper One Games . Having to drop to the ground and patiently withstand a snowy blast from the north lest you be blown backward and into the icy waters is an inspired mechanic. It emphasizes the 'man vs nature' struggle in a natural way.
Dispersed throughout the game are videos that teach the player about Iñupiat culture. These collectables are represented through Owls, which the player can find as they play. Unlike many trinkets found in other games before them, these have real value, as they're chock full of information. If everything goes as planned, I'll come away from this game a bit more knowledgable about a culture I previously knew nothing about, and I'll be doing it through a game that, so far, plays pretty darn well.
Upper One Games said they plan for the game to last about five hours. Never Alone is slated for release in early November on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and through Steam.