In November last year I had the privilege to review Never Alone, a game based on a story from the Iñupiat people of Alaska. The game resonated strongly and the way the story was presented using the native language, as well as the mini cultural insight documentaries, made Never Alone a game that was educational and fun at the same time. Then a few weeks ago some DLC was announced in the form of Foxtales, a new visualisation of another Iñupiat tale.
Never Alone: Foxtales isn’t a continuation of the first story in any way. Yes, you’ll once again control Nuna and Fox in this adventure, but they represent two different characters from folklore. You see, Foxtales is actually based on the tale of The Two Coastal Brothers, where one is a good swimmer while the other a good fighter. These attributes have been granted to Fox and Nuna respectively, as the two go head to head with a giant mouse that destroys all in its path. While a lot of the gameplay is familiar there are additions and changes too.
The most prominent addition is the kayak that Nuna and Fox use to get about. You have to paddle it properly to move along, with the speed of the stroke dictating how fast the kayak will travel. Most of the time the kayak is easy to use, but there were a few times when the controls weren’t completely accurate which meant moving a little backwards instead of forwards. Some bugs did make themselves known too, such as one of the two characters getting stuck in the scenery and forcing me to restart a checkpoint.
The majority of the game takes place in underwater locations which means lots of swimming sections with puzzles between them blocking progress. For the most part the puzzles are simple to solve, though even if you have the solution in mind there can be a bit of trial and error with timing or placement to complete them. The below the waves setting introduces new things to face like currents that can catch you and move you around against your will. These aren’t dangerous as neither Nuna or Fox run out of oxygen, though you do have to watch out for the weird creatures that will grab and eat either of them should they get too close.
In terms of the story itself it is an entertaining one that teaches you about respecting nature, but it didn’t feel as engaging as Never Alone’s original tale. This tale of two brothers plods along at a steady pace, but there never seems to be a stand out moment that would stick with you, unlike certain events that happened in the main game. The Cultural Insights are still as interesting as before, with information, history, and anecdotes all peppered in the five short films. In a way these were much more interesting to listen to than Foxtale’s own story.
Never Alone: Foxtales easily looks as good as, if not sometimes better than the main game. There is a change in scenery here with the season shifting to Spring, with more natural looking light present in some of the areas compared to the relative darkness from before. The characters look the same though Nuna is wearing a darker coloured coat this time. Environmental wise the snow and the ice haven’t had any major changes added to them, but the water seems a bit clearer to allow for better views when solving the puzzles.
Never Alone: Foxtales isn’t a long expansion with its three levels stretching to around the 90 minute mark, which includes times when bugs forced checkpoint resets. In fact a part of me feels that it was a bit too short and pieces felt like they were missing from the overall plot, as if there should have been more exposition on the antagonist. However, if that is how the original Iñupiat tale is structured then not much more can really be asked for since the story of Foxtales comes directly from that community.
Never Alone: Foxtales is a good expansion to Never Alone, but I wouldn’t say it is essential. If you enjoyed the original then do pick this up though just for the cultural insights alone. The gameplay is as good as ever, but the feeling of being emotionally involved isn’t present here. The new additions are worth experiencing too, but I wouldn’t say Foxtales is quite as good as the original. Still, another reason to fire up Never Alone is always welcome.