Way back in November of last year, I reviewed the original Never Alone, a beautifully crafted attempt to preserve a disappearing culture by embracing the potential of modern technology, the result of which was an intriguing and enlightening venture that undoubtedly left those who encountered it feeling rather desperate for more. Well, thankfully, Never Alone was never intended to be a one off, though it has still come as some surprise to see its developer create an additional piece of content to extend the experience yet further. Fox Tales then, has arrived almost ten months after the game’s initial launch and with precious little fanfare, which has probably left you wondering how it stacks up against the full game, well, if that’s the case, read on…
To start with, there can be no denying just how short Fox Tales is, the original was never likely to outstay its welcome, but here, the three chapters that make up the entirety of the expansion amount to little over an hour of gameplay. It plays almost exactly the same as the main game does and it looks pretty much identical too, but thankfully, the developers have managed to squeeze in an additional five of the Cultural Insights videos, these were probably my favourite aspect of the full game, and I highly doubt that I am alone in that. In its paltry expansion though, Upper One and E-Line have somehow managed to add an entirely new story to play through, one that focuses on two brothers, entitled “The Two Coastal Brothers”, but is it really enough to tempt old players to return to the arctic wastes? Well, at a trivial £3 price point, it most certainly is.
In fact, in some ways, the Fox Tales expansion actually plays better than the original game did, one way in which it does this, is by limiting the amount of platforming that is included, this proved to be something of a sticking point in the original release as jumping never once felt quite right. The bulk of the gameplay here is spent within a small canoe, with Nuna on rowing duties, leaving her small furry companion free to dive into the depths of the icy water to navigate spirits into positions that enable the pair to continue on their journey. In fact, the relationship between the two also seems to have been enhanced somewhat, with more co-operation needed between them to tackle some of the obstacles that they encounter, including the final encounter with Fox Tales’ main adversary.
For those that played through the original, it may be prudent to point out that this does not follow on from the original tale, but rather, the characters are familiar representations of the two brothers mentioned in the story that inspired this expansion. Also, much like the original game, which saw the protagonists being pursued by a polar bear, Fox Tales pits the brave duo against a new foe that stalks them incessantly, but thankfully, putting these brief encounters aside, the gameplay is somewhat different from the main game in that its puzzle solving elements primarily take place underwater. Naturally, there are new hazards to watch out for, including a new, unidentifiable creature and the currents that can sweep the characters aside. The bulk of the puzzle solving sees the game task the player with smashing the myriad barriers that prevent advancement by dropping what can best be described as a spectral boulder on top of them. These challenges can invoke a fair amount of trial and error, even if you do know the solution, as timing is everything, thankfully, these never become too frustrating though, allowing the action to continue relatively unabated.
So, with one of the primary grievances from the main game all but removed, a superior feeling of synergy between the two principle characters, more fascinating videos on Iñupiat culture to watch and an exceptionally low price point, it is impossible not to recommend Fox Tales to anyone who has already sampled the original. And if you’ve somehow missed out on the full game thus far, you’ve really no excuse to not just buy them both this time around, so do it!