The strongest moment in Never Alone doesn’t occur while playing. Instead it comes during one of the puzzle-platformer’s numerous documentary shorts, which are called “Cultural Insights.” In it, members of the Iñupiat Alaskan indigenous tribe describe the act of storytelling. Like many oral traditions from around the world, their stories impart unique cultural wisdom. They speak to the context of their lives, of their history, and of their future. “We all live in stories,” one interview describes, “And they need to be told. They need to be heard.”
There is a sort of melancholy plea in the speaker’s voice as he says this last line, and as these vignettes of Cultural Insight continue, peppered throughout the game, the weight of desire becomes evident. Look around games, books, films, whatever. The stories of marginalized communities are told too rarely. They are stories meant to be shared, but in many real ways, they are dying. I want to make very clear the respect Upper One Games deserves for making a game with an all too rare perspective before I say this, but Never Alone is a failure in storytelling.