Rarely does a game come around which, on the surface, is so well-suited to my interests and preferences, that I’ve never heard of. The fact that Alone With You was able to sneak by me until I stumbled upon it randomly in the Playstation Store a couple of days ago came to me as a genuine surprise. This is particularly so, having been a fan of the developer’s previous game, Home.
While Home was a pixelated, 8-bit horror game, developer Benjamin Rivers has gone in a different direction with Alone With You, a science-fiction-romance-adventure. While it does seem to fall into that very specific category, I found it disappointing and lacking. The game isn’t particularly long—it only takes only a few hours to play through in its entirety—and I found myself asking, “Do I like this game?” until the very end, when I ultimately decided that I really didn’t.
Alone has a texture laid on top of it that gives the appearance of looking through a dirty window, or looking at a smudged monitor. While this may have been the intention, I found it to be entirely distracting, as the texture stays in one place and the action moves around underneath it. The rest of the game is nicely put together and mechanically functions very well. This distraction really took away from the overall experience rather than adding an interesting element, which seems to be the intention.
The game itself is simple, and doesn’t seem to have a failure state (which will be a deal breaker for many gamers, but not for me). You move through your daily routine, solve simple puzzles and then have conversations with holographic representations of four deceased experts who are helping you to rebuild your ship. You are guided by an AI who sends you out on missions and also helps you figure out what happened, and what needs to happen next.
Alone attempts to make the relationships you have with these holograms and the AI quite significant, and they are— even where the “romance” elements of the game come in. For me though, the relationships you build with all of the characters never seemed particularly romantic, and they seemed quite rushed as well. It’s a comment that I make often about short-films, and that is trying to include too much in a short-film (or in this case, a game) usually does more harm than good in the grand scheme of the story being told.
If one particular element of the game really stood out as being unique or impressive, then it’s possible the game would have worked better as a whole. But with the puzzling elements being incredibly simple, and the relationship building feeling rushed and forced, it’s hard to find a whole lot to cling on to in Alone With You. Add the less-than-desirable look of the game, and the experience overall feels a bit weak.
Then there’s the issue of the ending. While I won’t spoil it entirely, the game leaves you with a choice, that I believe is meant to be a challenging choice, and instead falls flat.
While the game as a whole isn’t incompetent or low-quality, it just failed to grab me at any point. Everything felt simple, and the routine eventually became tedious. That said, Alone With You is scoring 7 or 8 out of 10 on many websites, so clearly I’m in the minority here. I do strongly recommend checking out Home if you haven’t already, but as for Alone With You, it’s not one that I’ll be voraciously recommending any time soon.
This review was originally published in the Navigator Newspaper on September 21, 2016.