Whoever said that video games cannot be educational? This thought must have gone through the heads of the team over at Upper One Games at least a million times during the development of indie platformer Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna).
Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is a puzzle-platformer with an educational twist. The player follows the story of an Iñupiat girl named Nuna and her arctic fox companion as they go on a journey to restore balance to an eternal blizzard. You’ll face off against polar bears, battle against the harsh elements and more while learning about the culture through videos known as ‘Cultural Insights’.
It’s commendable that Upper One Games have created such a unique game, and worked alongside Alaskan Natives to create a culturally rich story. Many of the levels are based on Iñupiat legends, and it is interesting to play through these levels and learn about them throughout the game.
But a game is only as good as it’s gameplay, and unfortunately, this is where Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) falls short. There is nothing particularly difficult about Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) – the level designs are pretty simple and the puzzles aren’t particularly challenging. The issue here is with the controls, which are sadly lacking and the AI which is quite erratic.
It all starts when you receive the Bola, a sort of slingshot weapon which is an absolute pain to use. When it works, it’s great but for the most part, it’s incredibly difficult to aim your weapon at a target quickly. When you have time to target, it’s usually okay but when for example you are being chased by a polar bear and need to break some ice, it’s difficult to correctly aim – ending up either throwing straight up into the air or into the ground. It’s baffling that this weapon has been relegated to the control stick when the Wii U has so many control scheme options available.
On the plus side, Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is a very pretty game. There is a lot of snow and fog so it’s not technically pretty, but there is a peacefulness to the game – a sort of relaxing vibe to the game that really suits the theme of the game. And when the controls work, Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is actually an enjoyable title.
The controls may not be perfect and the gameplay isn’t the most exciting, but the storytelling is the selling point here. For that reason alone, Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is worth sticking with. We could all do with a bit more education in our lives, and what better way to learn about a culture than through a video game?