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We get started off with some non-gaming news about Game of Thrones and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, which is apparently singular according to the director. We don’t believe him.

Speaking of Star Wars, Star Wars Battlefront II has been announced. Unlike the previous game, this one is going to include a single-player campaign and the star of that game mode might surprise you.

It looks like Nintendo is getting ready to make a SNES Classic Edition. We talk about how that might relate to the discontinuation of the NES Classic. Blizzard surprised everybody by making StarCraft completely free months before it was supposed to be. And GTA 5 is being used to help train driverless cars.

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The Switch is facing some problems. Turns out if yours breaks, you’re likely to lose any save data for games. Lesson: try not to break your Switch. Final Fantasy XV’s DLC is getting interesting by taking some of the key characters in a different direction. In other news that is not really news. Destiny 2 has been announced. Blizzard is also launching a high-end collectible store. Tetris can help with PTSD and finally there’s going to be a My Little Pony tabletop role-playing game. No, seriously.

 

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MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games) are popular, in large part, because they have a lot in common with team sports like soccer and basketball. I know. I know. That statement sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Soccer (football everywhere else in the world) and basketball have nearly universal appeal the world over because of a handful of traits.

  1. They have a low barrier of entry.
  2. They are accessible, while still being rewarding at a high level.
  3. They are, at least in certain circumstances, just as fun and engaging to watch as they are to play.

Now, these aren’t the only traits these games have that make them so ubiquitous around the world, but they are some of the most prominent. They also happen to be traits that are shared between some of the world’s favorite sports and MOBAs.

Low Barrier of Entry

We have all seen the stories of kids the world over gathering around a single ball that one of them own to play soccer or basketball. This low barrier of entry means that more of these gifted athletes born in impoverished communities can still participate.

Video games are a luxury item and are, obviously, far more expensive than a ball. I’m not confusing that. But, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that 83% of the households in America have computers. Many of those computers are used, at least occasionally, for gaming. MOBA designers like Valve and Riot know this and have gone out of their way to create games that will run on a variety of computer specs and don’t require a high powered rig to be workable. This increases their potential audience by A LOT.

Most MOBAs are also free to play, which means that anyone with access to a computer and an internet connection can play these games for much as they want.

Accessibility

This one might trip up some MOBA players who are reading this. But, I believe that MOBAs are, in and of themselves, an accessible genre. What I mean is that it is not difficult to actually play the game. The controls are often straightforward and most hero characters in these games only have a handful of different powers. The objectives aren’t even that difficult to comprehend as there are literal LANES for players to run down seeking enemies to defeat and towers to destroy.

MOBA fans are likely fuming at me right now because of how easy to it to play poorly and hurt your team. This is definitely true. But, that is one of the hallmarks of the genre. It is very easy to get into and learn the basics. But, it can take years of practice and study to truly master a MOBA.

Anyone who has ever sat through a tee-ball game where they don’t even keep score can attest: They are playing the same basic game as the professionals, but they are played very differently. This isn’t a bad thing though. If everyone reached the mastery level in Baseball in a week, it wouldn’t be terribly entertaining to watch professionals do “amazing” things… they just wouldn’t be all that amazing.

“Watchability”

Head to Twitch.tv at any time and you will likely find thousands of players watching MOBA matches. This isn’t an accident as MOBA developers like Valve and Riot have gone out of their way to make their games easy to watch and understand. Most games are played on the same map, and the different heroes all have distinct aesthetics. This makes it easy to tell who is on what team and what their goals are right from the beginning.

A Brief History

MOBAs are all derived from a series of user created modifications (Mods) to the real time strategy games Warcraft III. One of the most popular mods to the game was called Defense of the Ancients. It gave players control of a specific hero unit to move around the battlefield as opposed to control over the entire army. This mode quickly rose in popularity to the point where it was only a matter of time before a company stepped in and recreated it as a new game.

The first MOBA to be released is a game called League of Legends. The game still thrives today.

The MOBAs You Can Play Today

The massive popularity of League of Legends has lured a lot of different companies into making their own entry to the genre. Unfortunately, many of these games have failed because they were not able to compete with the juggernauts below.

League of Legends

Riot Games

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League is one of the biggest and most popular games on Earth. Riot Games recently reported that over 100 million people play League. That is almost 2% of the Earth’s total population. Crazy huh?

It is the oldest original game in the genre and helped set the standard for how MOBAs should play. Gameplay features two teams of five players that compete to destroy the other team’s home base.

One of leagues biggest draws is that it is free to play. There is a HUGE list of playable characters in the game. Players can either choose to play from characters among a rotating list of free characters, or spend in game currency (or money) on unlocking characters permanently.

DOTA 2

Valve

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DOTA is actually shorthand for “Defense of the Ancients” so this game has a very long history and a rabid fan base. It boasts a list of over 200 characters, but all of the games are played on a single game map. This is done to help make it more of a sport by removing some of the random elements that come from playing on random maps.

All of the characters in DOTA 2 are unlocked for play immediately at no cost. Valve, instead, charges for cosmetic upgrades like character skins (alternative graphical representations of characters).

DOTA 2is a huge part of the world eSports scene. They hold an event called “The International” every year where the best DOTA teams in the world compete for millions of dollars in prize money.

Heroes of the Storm

Activision/Blizzard

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It really was only a matter of time before Blizzard got involved in the MOBA genre. They have too many iconic characters involved in their different games to have been able to resist. I also can’t imagine that it hurt that the genre sprung from a mod for one of their classic games.

Blizzard’s strong suit is taking genres that are very popular and stripping out the most complicated elements while keeping the game fun. World of Warcraft was born when they improved on the MMO genre. Hearthstone is the result of their improvements to the digital card game genre. Overwatch is their take on the team based multiplayer shooter. Heroes of the Storm follows suit.

There are two main differences between HoTS (Heroes of the Storm) and other games in the genre.

  1. The game features multiple different maps. Each of them has their own unique features and gameplay mechanics. This stands in stark contrast to DOTA 2 that is played on a single map.
  2. Teams level together. Most other MOBAs reward (and penalize) individual performance. If you are getting a lot of kills then you will gain more levels and gold to buy better equipment. HoTS works differently. Teams will gain levels together as they complete objectives and earn kills.

Smite

Hi-Rez

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Smite takes the lane based combat from other MOBAs and turns it on its head by giving players direct control of one of dozens of Gods as they battle it out for supremacy.

The Gods included in the Smite roster are very diverse and include a number of ancient pantheons. The pantheons represented include the Greek, the Roman, the Norse, the Japanese, and several more.

The different gods are all well designed and have interesting animations for movement and attack. It is worth noting that the character models for the females tend to be a bit skimpy when it comes to clothes and armor. This can, obviously, be a turnoff for some people.

Smite stands apart from the competition by being more action oriented. Players move their Gods directly as opposed to relying on clicking on a map and essentially telling them where to go. This makes some group combats play out more like a match in a fighting game than in other games.

Smite is free to play on PC, MAC, Xbox One, and PS4. There are a lot of things players can buy over time like access to different Gods, character skins, and experience boosts. They also sell a Founder’s Pack for $39.99 that unlocks every God in the game and all future Gods that are released, If you play Smite and enjoy it, then this is really a must purchase just for the freedom it gives you when you play.

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Editor’s note: The below review departs for our normal format because it was published originally on Pixelkin.org. They are also a great resource for gamer parents! Be sure to check them out too!

Folks. I have to tell you. Those Blizzard people? I think they’ve got a future in the games business. Overwatch is a big part of that future.

All kidding aside, Blizzard has built a stellar reputation for taking ideas that were pioneered by other people and perfecting them. They did it with the Real Time Strategy (Warcraft and Starcraft), the MMORPG (World of Warcraft), the action RPG (Diablo), and the collectible card game (Hearthstone). It was only a matter of time before they gave it another try.

Gameplay

Overwatch’s basic formula is not much different from other competitive shooters. Players choose from a variety of different characters and play in 6v6 matches across a wide variety of game modes. The action is fast and each of the games modes is designed to force each match to end quickly. This means that no one should ever be stuck in a bad match for long enough to get frustrated. Even better? Any time you are killed you have the opportunity to respawn as a different character. This lets you, or your team, adjust to the play styles of the team you’re playing against. Is your team running low on damage? Switch from a support to an offense character. Does everyone keep dying? Fine. Switch to a support and heal away! This flexibility allows you to easily try new characters in real game scenarios and just bail on the character if it isn’t working out.

overwatch

Characters with Style

And speaking of characters…they’re really the highlight of the game. Each of the game’s 16 characters is dripping with personality. Every frame of animation and line of dialogue helps to inform players about their role in both the game AND the game world that they inhabit. Tracer is a perky, almost jovial character. So she almost hops as she runs. Mercy is an angel. So her movements are graceful and smooth. (Unless I’m controlling her; then she moves like a one-winged goose.)

The artful design of the character’s personalities isn’t the only thing well executed about them though. Their gameplay abilities are also top notch. All of them are formidable enough that they almost feel overpowered when you’re playing as them. That is an impressive feat when you consider just how difficult it is to balance characters.

The Rating

Overwatch is rated T with content descriptors for Blood, Use of Tobacco, and Violence. The game is all about shooting so the violence shouldn’t be a big surprise. Small amounts of blood can be seen when players are shot, but it’s not gratuitous. The character McCree smokes a cigar.

Playability

Overwatch is by no means a “simple” game. Each of the characters have unique abilities and are intended to be used very differently. This certainly can add to the challenge for younger players without a lot of experience.

However, the characters may be different, but they only have four different special abilities and none of their moves are terribly subtle. This means younger players can learn through experimentation because they can easily see what the different super powers do. As an example: My youngest son is eight and was able to get kill streaks with multiple different characters.

The Takeaway

Overwatch is an amazing game and is a worthwhile addition to anyone’s library. This is especially true if you’re a fan of competitive shooters. This game is going to be a big deal for a very long time and it will definitely be worth it to jump on the bus with the rest of us.

 

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Overwatch is an upcoming multiplayer first-person shooter created by Blizzard Entertainment.  The game is scheduled to be released on May 24, 2016.  It will be available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.  Blizzard has announced that they will be supporting the game post launch with additional characters as DLC at no additional cost.

Overwatch is designed to play as a squad with two opposing teams of six players each. Players choose one of several hero characters, each with their own unique abilities and role classes. The characters’ roles are iconic to this type of game. They are either offense characters, defense characters, support characters, or tank characters. Players also have the ability to change characters each time they die so it is very easy to experiment with different characters and strategies.

Overwatch can be played in any one of three game modes:

  • Point Capture: The attacking team has to capture two specific points on the map, while the defending team must stop them.
  • Escort: The attacking team must escort a vehicle to a certain delivery point before time runs out, while the defending team must stop them. The path is fixed.
  • Control: Each team tries to capture and maintain a control point until their capture percentage reaches 100%.

The premise of the game is set in the near-future Earth, years after the end of an A.I. robot uprising. At the end of this ‘Omnic Crisis’ an international task force called ‘Overwatch’ is formed by the United Nations to protect humanity, ending the Crisis.  After the Crisis, Overwatch remained in place as a organization to keep order. Eventually the inevitable rumors of corruption started and the members of Overwatch were reviled. Their organization was destroyed and some suspected it was by people who are wary of their power and caused chaos to stop their influence.

Blizzard Entertainment co-founder Michael Morhaime stated that Overwatch is intended to “create an awesome FPS experience that’s more accessible to a much wider audience while delivering the action and depth that shooter fans love.”  In keeping with this idea of reaching a broader audience, the game is animated in a Saturday morning cartoon style and was given a Teen rating from the ESRB.  The hero characters include males, females, and non-human characters such as robots and even a gorilla.  Unlike the costumes in some of Blizzard’s other iconic games, the female characters are well covered with very little skin exposed.  They are, however, wearing cat suits, but this is no different than your typical comic book based cartoon character.

In March 2016, Blizzard announced that that they will be releasing comics and animated shorts based on the Overwatch universe in 2016. It includes 6 digital comics, an animated short series, and a graphic novel called Overwatch: First Strike, which focuses on the story of several in-game characters.

The first animated short was released last week featuring the gorilla character named Winston. (You can watch it at the bottom of the article.)  It was really intriguing and entertaining to watch and my older boys were very excited about the game. Considering the game is a first person shooter, the violence level was not all that bad.  It certainly was not anything like the typical military style shooter that we are familiar with. It was more reminiscent of a Star Wars movie or an Avengers movie.  While not as tame as Splatoon, so far it seems like something I would allow my 8 and 10 year old to play.  There may be some blood, but I didn’t notice that in any trailer or preview that I’ve seen so far.

Overall, this is a game that my family is highly anticipating.  If the quality of the animated short is any indication of the game to come, and they keep up at this level, we will definitely own Overwatch. We will be keeping an eye on the violence level and update it if we see anything that becomes a concern.

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Activision Blizzard is teaming up with the charity Autism Speaks as part of the “Light it up Blue” campaign. They will be releasing a set of special edition action figures that are painted blue in an effort to raise awareness for Autism ahead of Autism Awareness Month this April.

The figures they are releasing are Splat and her boat, Splatter Splasher, as well as Trigger Happy and his car, Gold Rusher.

Skylanders Special Characters Light it Up Blue

These Skylanders Special Figures will Light it Up Blue! (available now!)

These special figures will function identically to their regular counterparts, but they will appear blue and white inside the game as well.

The Power Blue Toys aren’t the only way that Activision is supporting Autism awareness either. They are:

  • Supporting an employee-match donation program for Autism Speaks
  • Encouraging participation in the Autism Speaks Walk on April 2 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Ca in support of World Autism Awareness Day
  • Activision is also making donations to non-profits that are making a difference in the autism community.

This is a great program for Activision to get involved in as Autism is a concern for millions of parents all over the world.

What do you think? Will you be buying any of these figures? Sound off in the comments!

 

 

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Activision Blizzard and Platinum Games have been working on a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game for a while now, but they just can’t lug the leaks that have been showing screenshots and other information to the masses before they were prepared to give out official information on the game.

They finally gave in and released the official trailer today! It looks like it will follow suit with the hand drawn animation style used in The Legend of Korra and Transformers: Devastation (which is fine by us). Take a look at the trailer below. It appears that the game will feature up to four player online coop which seems like the perfect way to resurrect the fun many of us had playing the TMNT brawlers back in our younger days.

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2015 was a great year for family games, but 2016 looks like it will be just as good (if not better). Take a look below for a list of the ten games we are looking forward to the most

Mighty No. 9

 

Mighty no. 9 found its way onto this list because of its wildly successful kickstarter a few years back. It is intended to be a spiritual successor to the Mega Man franchise and it looks like it will be a lot of fun to play.  Unfortunately, the game has been delayed what feels like 87 times. It has been delayed so frequently at this point that it is starting to squelch the giant pile of excitement that I had.

Final Fantasy Explorers

Evan, our oldest, is excited enough for this game all on his own to catapult Final Fantasy Explorers onto the list. We really didn’t know much about this one until Square Enix started sending out press information in the last few months.

The core elements mimic some of the elements of the Monster Hunter series that has been super popular worldwide. The difference is that it features final fantasy job classes and the ability to use special moves and/or items to summon iconic Final Fantasy characters.

This should be an interesting experiment and the new 3DS is a great place for this type of action RPG.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2

Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare was a massive surprise when it was release and it has built a HUGE audience of 8 million players. The sequel was inevitable and we are super excited to play it.

The best part of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is that it is everything great about the first game with more cool stuff like sci-fi elements and new characters (like an orange that shoots lasers).

Overwatch

I am so excited for Overwatch that I am giddy. Blizzard has a great history of taking genres, identifying the key components that make them fun, and designing a new game that highlights those key elements.

Overwatch looks like it will be the next game to go through that process and be all the better for it.

We are looking forward to this one and hoping that the recent design decisions to remove most of the blood will remain so we can enjoy this with our older kids.

Pokemon Go

pokemon-go-logo

People have been calling for a mobile Pokemon game for years. Pokemon Go is the answer to those players prayers and more.

The game is being developed by the team behind Ingress and features the some of the same mechanics. Pokemon will be placed all over the world using GPs coordinates and players will be able to physically go to those locations to fight them and capture them. The result will, hopefully, be an opportunity for players to really feel like a Pokemon trainer.

No Man’s Sky

no mans sky logo

No Man’s Sky is making some bold promises. It is promising players an opportunity to explore a universe that is almost infinite in size. It is promising millions upon millions of unique planets, the majority of which have never been seen, to explore. Something about that makes it seem too good to be true. Something has to be wrong? They can’t possibly accomplish this stuff right?

We are going to find out this year and I cannot wait.

Street Fighter V

 

I’m not gonna lie folks. I LOVE me some Street Fighter and Street Fighter V looks like it will be one for the ages.

I recognize that there will be some parents who will question why I would place a fighting game so high on my list of family friendly titles, and I can respect that. But, I strongly believe that Street Fighter is different because the game is at least positioned to be about a tournament. There may be fireballs and lightning attacks, but these characters are competing in a non-lethal tournament (as opposed to, say, Mortal Kombat or Killer Instinct).

Many of you might have heard on our podcast that Uncle Badger and I will be holding a Street Fighter V tournament sometime this year. Keep your eyes on EFG for more information about it. You don’t want to miss it!

Pokken Tournament

Anyone concerned about Street Fighter should immediately be comforted by my inclusion of Pokken Tournament. This is a hardcore fighting game that features a HUGE pile of Pokemon like Pikachu, Machamp, Mewtwo, and more. It is already doing well in Japanese arcades and will be launching in North America during the first half of 2016.

We simply cannot wait to get our hands on this one.

My wife and I collaborated quite heavily on this list and while we generally agreed on positioning for the games that we have already talked about he simply could not agree on a number one. Mainly because new entries in our respective favorite game series are being released (ostensibly) within 2016. In the spirit of compromise we agreed to let it be a tie between our two highly anticipated games. They are:

Final Fantasy XV – Steve’s pick

Point blank: Final Fantasy XV gives me the chills.  I have loved this series since I was in 8th grade and I don’t think that will be going away any time soon. This entry features some interesting changes. It features an action RPG battle system (as opposed to turn based battles in the past) and it features a primary cast that is entirely male.  It also features an amazing black convertible that you drive across the map as one of the main parts of the gameplay loop.

I know a lot of people have abandoned Final Fantasy in favor of other classically styled JRPGs and I can’t really blame them. But, something about this game has me counting down the days.

The Legend of Zelda Wii U – Jenna’s pick

The Legend of Zelda Wii U is one of our most anticipated games because we love the Zelda franchise. Beyond our love for the franchise however, there are many more things that draw us into the game.

First, and most obviously, would be the unbelievable aesthetic to the game. The artwork is absolutely stunning. It’s how we’ve always wanted a Zelda game to look.  It’s not too cartoony, it’s not too dark, and it perfectly displays the fantasy like atmosphere of the game.

The second reason that this is one of our most anticipated games is the open world concept.  We love the idea of exploring anywhere within the kingdom without having to follow a linear path.  If you can see it, you can go there.

Finally, we love the fact that they are going to keep the puzzles and dungeons that we love while reworking them to add more dimension and an exciting new feel. At least, that’s what was promised to us.

Now, they actually have to show us more of the game and get it in the shelves.  The wait has been long enough.

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Exciting things happen in the world of video games every single day. Everything happens so quickly that it can be tough for a parent to keep track of. Between work, carting the kids to everywhere under the sun, cooking, cleaning, and maybe (just maybe) getting a chance to sleep for a few hours parents just don’t have the time to keep up with everything happening in their child’s hobby.

If the above paragraph describes you, then we have an answer for you. EFG is going to publish a digest of everything that you need to know  that happened in family gaming over the past week. So kick back with your morning coffee and enjoy!

Awesome Metroid fan movie released starring Jessica Chobot from Nerdist.com

Further proof has been provided that Nintendo needs to work on movie deals for some of its properties. Take a look and judge for yourself.

Activision Blizzard Purchases the Company Behind Candy Crush

Activision Blizzard is a giant in the gaming industry. They are responsible for some of the biggest franchises in video games and don’t really show any signs of slowing down. Their one weakness? They don’t have a strong mobile presence. They certainly had the option to invest the money and time to build their own, but it turns out they just wanted to go buy one. They didn’t exactly take the budget option either.

Instead, they spent 5.9 billion dollars to purchase King, the company responsible for Candy Crush and more than 400 million monthly users.

To put that into perspective: They spent almost 2 billion dollars more than Disney spent to purchase all of LucasFilms.

Activision Blizzard Announces TV and Movie Studio

Activision Blizzard has been looking to spends some money recently. They have announced that they intend to open a film and television studio to produce scripted content for their various game properties. The projects they have announced so far include a Skylanders television series and a series of movies based on the massive Call of Duty franchise.

The Skylanders TV series is already in the works and is called “Skylanders Academy.” It is going to be an animated feature that will include voice talent like Justin Long (“Alvin and the Chipmunks”), Ashley Tisdale (“Phineas and Ferb”), Jonathan Banks (“Breaking Bad”) and Norm Macdonald (Saturday Night Live).

Super Mario Maker Updated

Super-Mario-Maker

Super Mario Maker has gotten the update a lot of people have been waiting for. It was updated last week to include checkpoints. This might seem like a small change, but this gives level designers the opportunity to reward players for completing challenging sections of their levels.

Warcraft Movie trailer


Overwatch Confirmed for Consoles With a Spring Release Date!!

Activision Blizzard revealed a lot of details about their character based “Hero shooter” Overwatch.

Most relevant to us? It is a T for teen rating by the ESRB. Any time guns get involved it is possible for the rating to climb, but they managed to avoid it by not animating too much blood or gore. The character models are a highlight too as the female characters, that are often tough to expose kids to, are stylized and tasteful.

They also announced that the game will be released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with at a price of $59.99. The price itself isn’t much of a shock; this is the standard release price for triple a games. What makes this a surprise is that Overwatch appeared to be a free to play game from the time it was announced. We won’t really know which plan would have been better until the game is out, but this announcement should make people who dislike free to play models more comfortable.

World of Warcaft: Legion Gets A Release Window and An Opening Cinematic

The upcoming expansion to the smash hit World of Warcraft will release during the summer of 2016. It can’t come quick enough though because WoW has been losing subscribers every month and expansions, typically, rejuvenate the numbers.

We also got our first glimpse at the cinematic trailer for the game which showcases teamwork between the Alliance and the Horde against the Burning Legion. Its an epic cinematic and it managed to bring my excitement level to a new peak. Take a look for yourself:

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Publisher: Upper One Games

ESRB Rating: T for Teen

This game was reviewed on Xbox One, also available for PS4 and Windows PC.

 

Overall Review

Anyone who enjoys games already knows they’re a creative medium like any other, with the potential for meaningful expression beyond entertainment. But Never Alone asks an ambitious question: can video games share and preserve cultural legacies?

Never Alone  Screen shot

Never Alone is absolutely gorgeous!

Developed in partnership with the Alaskan Native community, Never Alone takes an Iñupiaq myth and recasts it as the adventure of a young girl named Nuna and her companion, an arctic fox. As a relentless blizzard threatens her village, Nuna and Fox journey to find the source of the storm. As they encounter a variety of friends and foes, it’s clear that nature can be helpful, hostile, and even mischievously neutral. But with patience and perseverance they press on.

No type of game embodies the themes of perseverance and patience better than the puzzle-platformer. Gameplay is part detective work, as the player (or players–two people can play the full game together) figures out how to overcome the level’s obstacles; and play’s part pure coordination, as they alternately control Nuna and Fox to climb, jump, and swing the solution to success. Each level represents one of the myth’s chapters, and the influence of indigenous art styles is deliberately present in the level design. It’s worth emphasizing how gorgeous and distinct each level looks. It’s more than just ice and snow.

This isn’t a staid museum piece. The Iñupiat and their traditions play a living part in our world today– a world that has video games– and these games can be used as a viable storytelling technique. That’s an important point to bring home: this isn’t interactive homework, trying to “trick” kids into learning about another culture when they think they’re playing a game. Rather, it’s the bold idea that the game itself is a legitimate way to tell an Iñupiaq tale.

It works. This is a bonafide video game. Is it educational? Even a little political? Yes. Throughout the game, players discover and watch short interviews with members of the Iñpuiaq community that explain the cultural and historical meaning behind various gameplay elements. These videos tell an engaging narrative of their own and are immediately relevant, providing context and depth to the game itself.

Aptly named, the game tells a story that prizes connectedness, cooperation, and community. The young girl’s individual bravery brings her against the ravages of the blizzard, but it’s the survival of her village that urges her onward. Without the help of Fox, she could not prevail. Even then, they rely on more than their friendship, turning to the helpfulness of spirits and the environment itself. Ultimately, as one interviewee puts it, “You’re not the biggest force in the world.”

Never Alone screen shot

The windblown snow results in some beautiful on screen effects.

This translates beautifully into the gameplay, creating a game that’s truly cooperative. Each puzzle’s solution requires the active participation of both characters and their unique abilities. Nuna smashes the walls of ice that stand in their way, while Fox scrambles to otherwise unreachable heights. No one becomes a frustrating tag-along, meaning co-op mode may actually be the better experience. For any parent interested in games to play with their kids, Never Alone definitely deserves a look.

Family Gaming Assessment

Never Alone earns its teen rating: there’s no blood or gore, but the player confronts frightening situations of destruction and violence. One scene in particular even startled me. That said, none of this is glorified. Quite the opposite: there’s a strong message that courage and cooperation overcome greed and cruelty.

Playability Assessment

Like any platformer, the game requires precise coordination. Players will spend more time trying to achieve the correct timing than they’ll spend actually working out the puzzles. However, the ratio of frustration to challenge is fair. A parent-child team, especially, will find little trouble progressing at a reasonable pace.

Conclusion

Never Alone delivers on its promise. Without feeling patronizing or gimmicky, it succeeds at being many things at once: educational, artistic, challenging, and inspiring. But, most importantly, it’s a fun little game. Anybody can appreciate that.

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