This is a game that I have wanted to play for a very long time. Ever since I saw my Native Alaskan friend Vince post a picture of the promotional materials on his Facebook page, I have been intrigued. I looked up the trailer, and you know what – it looked really neat. A game made by a developer, working in conjunction with Native Alaskans (my home state!) Finally, after all this time, I got to play the game. With all the debate about whether or not the length of a game is a deciding factor, I will say that I have never gotten into that argument. I am a firm believer that there is more that makes a game than that. After all, Flower and Journey are two of my favorite games, and both of them are only a couple hours long, not telling very typical stories, but having ideas and thoughts. This game has done something which I didn’t think was possible – taking Native legend and making it into a 2D puzzle platformer. And it works! It works so well! There is only one thing holding it back, but we’ll get there when we do. Let’s talk about the game.
The plot of this game is all told in Inupiaq language. All the dialogue is done in this way. It frames the entire story like a Native legend. The girl sets out to find the cause of a massive blizzard that threatens her people. Along the way, she find an adorable little arctic fox companion, and the two set off to see what they find. This is a story that is framed as myth, but still has a lot of emotional edge. Don’t let the cheerful moments fool you. This game can get pretty grim, from time to time.
Now, the first thing to bring up in respect to this game is the art design. This game is GORGEOUS! I cannot stress enough how beautiful this game is. With so many games trying to strive for faux-realism, it’s nice to see that some companies still remember how to make beautiful worlds without all the bells and whistles. The elements in the game look so amazing, and it never stops amazing. You will be in love with the art design, if you are anything like me and value that sort of thing.
Then there are the characters. The little girl is cute and determined. Without speaking a word, you can feel her devotion. Part of that comes from the amazing narration done in Inupiaq. The lengths they went to to make this feel like a legend makes the game that much more impressive. Then there is the fox, who is so cute. Plus, it has a ton of personality. It will be a total “awwww” moment when you see him and the girl playing together. Then there are a lot of side characters. They are all unique, and each one is part of Inupiaq culture.
Which brings me to a neat addition. Something you can find in this game are little videos that were made. They are like short documentaries. The game calls them “Cultural Insights,” and that feels like a very apt description. The perspective of the people who live in that arctic landscape makes the experience that much richer. I have never seen collectibles in a game like this, and you know what, it’s so worth it.
The play style of the game is 2D puzzle platforming. It’s clear that the game took a LOT of cues from Limbo, but I won’t rag on that. Because it works. What’s more, they didn’t just copy-paste. They have a nice addition of being able to seamlessly change characters from the girl to the fox, which you will have to use to solve the puzzles in the game. It is also used in some creative boss fights. This game did not skimp on any of the gameplay elements, and it all is fun
So, all of that sounds just about perfect, right? I wish I could give this game a perfect score. I really do. You have no idea how much I want that. But there is one problem that holds it back from that. One element that can be a real pain, sometimes. And I have to address it. Over the course of the game, you unlock this long-distance weapon that you can use to solve puzzles. And…it’s so annoying. It is the most annoying thing. For real, that weapon is the biggest pain to use. And that wouldn’t be such a problem, if there weren’t scenes where you had to use it quickly, and failure meant instant death. So you gotta go back through the checkpoints and do it all over again,which is even more annoying! I know this sounds like nit-picking, but it never stopped being a problem. Throughout the entire game, it was a giant pain in the ass. It’s the only thing holding this game back from a perfect score.
That being said, this was a phenomenal game. The studio who made this, you need more work. If this game was indicative of anything, it’s that you have a bright future in front of you, and I look forward to seeing what you deliver next. I finally feel like my investment in a PS4 was worth something.
9 out of 10