Never Alone: A Visual History of the Native Alaskan Iñupaiq

 

Never Alone is an indie-platformer game that mingles modest puzzling levels with the history and folklore of the Native Iñupaiq Eskimo, a tribe that still survives today with an estimated 361 members according to the 2010 Census. The result is an enchantingly beautiful yet, if I am honest, rudimentary platform game that will break your heart in all the best ways.

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The protagonist is a young girl in search of the source of a terrible blizzard. The premise of the story allows for the protagonist’s personal bildungsroman as she is forced to learn the history of her people as well as the value of companionship as a mean of survival; hence her Arctic Fox escort. Her journey is narrated in the Iñupaiq language which is translated into English subtitles allowing for an immersive player experience. Also, throughout the game are vignettes depicting different stories represented in traditional art styles, interviews, and footage of significant locations in Alaska.

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So what makes “Never Alone” literature? It was sponsored and heavily influenced by the Iñupaiq Eskimo so that the folklore retains its authenticity. Never Alone also follows the traditions of many cultural folklore in the sense that it heavily relies on performance and visual effects as opposed to being written down.

Finally, from a gamer perspective, Never Alone is not a fantastic game. In fact, aside from the art style the game employs, a favorite of many indie games, the game is unnecessarily difficult. There are times when you can feel the protagonist or the environment just do not want to cooperate with you but the game aspect is not the point. The purpose of Never Alone is the educational experience provided through the story.

 

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