Created by Upper One Games, this is a puzzle-platform game centred around the stories of Alaskan Natives. It follows the story of a young girl and her companion fox on her adventure to discover the source of terrible blizzards that are ravaging her village.
Based on the traditional Iñupiaq tale “Kunuuksaayuka”, you play as a Inuit girl named Nuna. She, along with her arctic fox companion, set out to find what is causing terrible blizzards that are destroying her village. As you play, different stories and tales from Alaskan natives weave themselves in the story and become sub-levels in their own right. In one chapter, you encounter the Sky People which originate from the story of how the aurora borealis came about: Children who got too close to the lights were plucked from the earth and now dance in the sky to lure more children to their beautiful but dark world. The stories are blended together pretty seamlessly and provide a good overview of all of the different stories told by the Inuit people.
The game is also very intimate: whenever one of the playable characters dies, the other character still alive curls up into a ball and cries (I am not joking) and the camera slowly fades to black while also giving you a close up of their devastated faces. It is like the game is punishing you for being so rash with your decisions, and trust me…after the second or third time this happens you really will take your time to think about the different choices available.
The game play
The game follows the same sort of style as Limbo and Little Nightmares, mostly focused around solving puzzles while running from the elements and animals around you. Being set in Alaska, the biggest enemy you face is the environment: The water will freeze you, the winds can sweep you away and the sub-zero temperatures can leave you stranded if you do not think fast enough. Throughout the game you have to switch between playing as Nuna and as the fox, as each has their own set abilities: Nuna can lift and pull items, throw them if needed and use the one weapon you are given, while the fox can jump to hard to reach places and also interact with the spirit guides that you use throughout the game. This also means the game can be played co-op with one player controlling each character, but as a single player game it also adds another degree of thought as you also need to think fast about which character you need to use at any given time and for each individual situation.
As you play, you also unlock ‘cultural insights’ which are interviews and stories with Alaskan natives that provide more background information as to what you are about to play through. For me, this was really interesting, as you got to learn about a new culture while also seeing how the game developers used these stories to inspire different aspects throughout the game. For example, the only weapon you are given is not actually used as a weapon: The Bola is made up of a collection of weights that are tied onto the end of an intertwining cord that is spun around and thrown at a given target. In the game, you use this mostly to break ice blocks that are in your way or distract enemies while you escape. This lack of violence also relates to the Alaskan ideology that all of nature is balanced and that every action that challenges this can have very severe consequences.
Definitely worth a play! If you want to play a game with a steady pace and an interesting story, then this is the one for you. The puzzle-platform nature of the game also means that there is no close combat interaction, so if you aren’t very keen on that type of play (I for one can not aim anything to save my life!) this game can give you adrenaline as well as a brain teaser while you play. It is beautifully made, with gorgeous images and a story just complex enough to keep you interested without being overwhelmingly complicated. The added notes about the Alaskan culture also makes the story more enjoyable, as you almost get a glimpse into how this culture lives on a daily basis.