In November of 2014 I had the pleasure to review an indie game called Never Alone produced by Inupiat developers through which they could translate their ancestral stories and beliefs into a gameplay experience. They succeeded in creating a new type of game, called “World games” through which the mythology and culture of different peoples are explored.
Now they have released their first DLC, Foxtales, in which another short story of the Inupiat is transformed into a series of puzzles and beautiful environments presented in 3 levels. Although the number of levels may seem small, in that short timespan they introduce new game mechanics which give this DLC a slightly different feel from the main game.
The main game’s story involved Nuna and her Arctic fox going on a quest in order to stop the unnatural blizzard which had paralyzed her community. Along the way they met helpers (spirits and the Owl Man) and a few enemies (the polar bear, Manslayer and the source of the blizzard) which they overcame. The story being told this time is Two Coastal Brothers, in which a swimmer and fighter navigate the Alaskan waters and defeat a giant shadow rat. The two brothers, in this case, are of course Nuna as the fighter and the fox as the swimmer.
The game debuts with them chasing an arctic mouse, all of them ending up in the freezing water. However, as the mouse floats away, the pair finds an old canoe and commandeers it. This canoe represents the main means of transportation during the game. Most puzzles revolve around eliminating obstacles that prevent the canoe from moving forward. Having played this game with an Xbox controller, I can say that rowing the boat was by far the most challenging task in this game.
The puzzles are interesting, revolving around a few key elements. Firstly, they introduced water spirits which create underwater currents that have a few roles. The currents are used as a means of faster movement by the pair, they discourage enemies from attacking our heroes, they transport a certain object which we will discuss further and they can control the water flow up top, where the boat is. Many puzzles revolve around reaching a certain spirit and orienting it as such that the canoe can proceed.
Secondly, they introduced another kind of spirit which provides Nuna with an inexhaustible supply of spirit balls (I think) which she can use to break underwater spirit walls, thus allowing access to further areas. The spirit ball mechanics are quite interesting. For example, Nuna cannot jump while carrying one, she can either throw them a short distance or gently put them down, they can be transported via canoe, they can be carried along by the underwater currents… There are many interactions to consider in these types of puzzles. One situation which I have encountered a few times is where Nuna throws a ball in the water and the fox must quickly modify the underwater currents via a spirit (the fox has the power to interact with spirits). These do not seem like much, but for 3 levels they are enough to keep you entertained and thinking of the correct solutions.
In conclusion, Foxtales is a very good follow-up to the main game, providing new challenges and mechanics which can keep you entertained for a couple of hours and also a new story which further sheds light on the beliefs of an entire people.