Never Alone: Arctic Collection – Review
Follow Genre: Puzzle platformer
Developer: Upper One Games, E-Line Media
Publisher: E-Line Media
Platform: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS
Tested on: Switch

Never Alone: Arctic Collection – Review

Site Score
Good: Immersive worldbuilding that educates you about the Iñupiat people
Bad: Inaccurate controls can be frustrating at times
User Score
(1 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Never Alone arrives on the Switch in the form of the Arctic Collection, comprising the award-winning puzzle platformer as well as the Fox Tales DLC, ahead of the upcoming sequel, which is set to debut in the near future. The original title debuted back in 2015 and although the stories it is based on are centuries old and timeless, seven years is an age in video game time. We’re pretty sure that the game’s narrative is going to hold up, but how does the gameplay fare?


Taking inspiration from an actual folklore tale from the Alaskan Iñupiat people, Never Alone introduces us to Nuna, a young Iñupiat girl whose village is threatened by a series of blizzards. When she goes out to investigate the cause of the blizzards, she is rescued from a polar bear by an arctic fox, who becomes her spirit companion. Upon returning to her home, she sees that her village has been burned to the ground. Nuna sets out to make things right, and encounters a variety of characters from Iñupiaq tales along the way. The game’s story, which is divided into eight chapters, is told in Iñupiaq by a narrator, with story snippets thrown in at key moments in the game, and bookended by story cutscenes. Additionally, you’ll unlock new insights about the game’s background and the real-life Iñupiaq people along the way, which can be viewed in the form of 24 short videos from the game’s menu. An additional tale featuring the same characters comes in the form of the Fox Tales DLC, which offers a standalone narrative that ties into the stories featured in the main game.


You’ll encounter two distinct visual styles during your time within Never Alone. Story scenes are presented through traditional drawings with silhouetted figures, whereas the actual gameplay takes on a more realistic approach. The game manages to capture the harsh beauty of the snowy tundras of Alaska and although the in-game character models don’t look hyperrealistic, there is a timeless quality to the animation style present here. The clean interface also helps to sell the immersion because most of the time, there is no text visible on the screen. The minimalist presentation makes for a game that looks fantastic yet isn’t too taxing on the Switch, and performance is great as a result. The only thing that felt irksome about the visuals was that the game deliberately adds shadowy edges and blurriness during the harsher sections, mimicking the feeling of snow whirling around you, which can make it difficult to see what is happening on screen.


The game’s narration stands out because it’s delivered in Iñupiat, which adds an air of authenticity to the stories. Side characters, such as the so-called Terrible Man, also get snippets of dialogue, but the game doesn’t really have a lot of talking in it overall. Nuna and her fox companion don’t communicate through dialogue and any sounds made by the pair are mostly reactions to the harsh environment, such as yelps, grunts, and groans. The music in Never Alone is fairly understated, instead ambient sounds like the wind take center stage, further underlining the bleak desolation of the icy tundra -and also signaling when our heroes need to brace themselves for the incoming gusts of wind that will knock them back.


Beneath Never Alone’s fantastic worldbuilding lies a fairly simplistic puzzle platform game that is best enjoyed in couch co-op mode. Players take control of Nuna and her spirit fox companion, either with a single player swapping between both characters at the push of a button or with a pair of players stepping into the shoes (or paws) of a single character. The game features asymmetrical gameplay, with Nuna and the fox not only having different abilities, but also a noticeable distance in how they navigate the world. The fox is more agile, jumps farther and higher, and is able to squeeze through narrow gaps that Nuna can’t reach. Nuna on the other hand has the power of opposable thumbs, allowing her to use man-made tools such as throwing bolas. In, Fox Tales, these throwing weapons don’t make an appearance, instead, they are replaced by a paddle as Nuna and the fox use a small boat as their main tool to make their way through this additional hour of content.

Never Alone feels like an atypical platformer. There is no timer or a set number of lives to worry about, nor are the icy tundras that you make your way across filled with sentient mushrooms or exploding turtles. Instead, your main enemy is the arctic wind, which will blow in from time to time, knocking you back if you don’t brace yourself. That might seem like a trivial thing to overcome, but in a game where you need to time your jumps carefully, it’s very easy to get knocked into the icy waters, prompting a return to the last checkpoint. Thankfully, there are plenty of these, so even if you’re navigating a trickier part of the game, it shouldn’t be too difficult to overcome.

The other main threat that Nuna faces are polar bears, which pop up from time to time in sections where she needs to outrun these arctic predators. These sections provide a nice little break from the slow-paced puzzle platforming sections that the majority of Never Alone consists of. Other characters, such as the so-called Blizzard Man, make similar appearances in chase sections. The puzzles themselves aren’t overly complicated and mostly revolve around the fox creating makeshift platforms for Nuna by summoning spirits. We found that these weren’t too hard to figure out but we did notice that there were some issues with the spirits not moving where we wanted them, making things needlessly complicated. Perhaps this was done deliberately, to show that these spirits had a will of their own but as a gameplay mechanic, this didn’t really work out.

We tried the game both in co-op and in single player and although both were enjoyable, neither mode truly nailed it from a gameplay perspective. In co-op, the camera didn’t zoom out far enough, making it difficult to time when going down a slide, which was a little frustrating because neither character jumps in the same way. In single player, swapping between characters on the fly was easy enough, but it also required you to swap between two distinct control schemes. Given that the game is relatively short at roughly 5 hours, including the DLC, there simply isn’t enough time to fully adjust yourself to seamlessly switching between the two different playstyles.

That’s a minor grievance all things considered, though. Never Alone might not impress on a technical level, that’s purely because we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to puzzle platformers and there are plenty of other options out there that outclass it. The controls feel fairly inaccurate at times, which can lead to unfair deaths, but these moments don’t happen very often, fortunately. Admittedly, we felt a little frustrated at times because of this, but we never felt like Never Alone was a bad game. You’re still getting a polished experience here, with carefully crafted levels, and perhaps most importantly, a game that is actually fun to play through, despite a handful of rough edges.


While there are plenty of puzzle platformers out there that are objectively better from a gameplay perspective, Never Alone manages to impress through the sum of its parts. The immersive worldbuilding, gripping storyline, and plethora of background information about the Iñupiat culture all add up to a title that is certainly worth checking out. Never Alone has aged gracefully, and we can’t wait to see what E-Line Media and Upper One Games come up with for the sequel.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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Never Alone: Arctic Collection - Review, 9.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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