Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Alone With You reminds me of older adventure games where not everything is obvious and in plain site, and that feeling is only reinforced by the pixelated, old-school visuals and the find-it-in-the-environment gameplay. The end result is a somewhat uneven experience that can grow a little repetitive by the end of the game, but there is enough substance to the story and how it is handled to make an impression on the player well after you turn off the game.
The game starts simply enough, with your character standing alone out in the open looking at the storm swept alien world you occupy. Your character is the sole survivor of a doomed space colony facing a ticking clock. The world is going to implode, leaving you with only a few weeks to figure out a way off of the planet before that happens.
Despite being physically alone, our character has some connections to be made. There is an AI that helps to guide you through what is happening, proposing a plan to repair a ship and get you off of the planet before time runs out. However, there are some problems with the ship that even the AI is not able to assist with. The AI then comes up with an idea to help secure your rescue.
There are four personalities that the AI is able to draw upon, each with their own area of expertise such as communication hardware or the ability to grow and process plants for food. The thing is, everyone on the colony died, including these four, so your AI companion has done the best job it can in reconstructing the four people into representative personalities that can be visited at night in a holo-sim chamber. During that time you help these projections who have most but not all of the memories of their actual personas come to grips with the fact that they are in fact deceased and that they don’t quite know how it happened.
This narrative construct provides ample opportunity to explore some pretty somber themes, but ones that have a certain stickiness to them that allows the subject material to stay with you once you have beaten the game. Admittedly I found myself caring more for some of the personalities than others, but I suspect that is the goal – to try and create or recreate people who have some questions about themselves and their final circumstances. There are some highs and lows throughout this process, but credit is due for the strong conclusion and the way that the game does provide a branching narrative that adds some replay value.
Aside from the solid storytelling, the music is another fantastic high point to the experience. It is an interesting blend of electronic sounds, subtle tones and knows just when to play louder to help punctuate the scene, or take a step back and simply compliment what is taking place elsewhere. The visuals are a bit of a mixed bag. I suspect some people will really love the pixelated retro style, which is well done with some interesting layers and effects along the way, but it is nothing we have not seen before either. Even the choice of color pallets used is a matter I struggled with, because while the bright colors were visually interesting, they seemed somewhat at odds with the darker tone of the narrative in the back of my mind.
What holds Alone With You back perhaps the most is the redundant nature of the gameplay itself. None of the puzzles are terribly challenging as the majority of your time is spent simply walking around environments and pressing X to read something or R1 to scan it. Some areas require that you find all of something to progress, and the low-detail nature of the visuals can make it sometimes difficult to see something of substance to interact with. The game falls into a somewhat steady cadence of hunt around the environment during the day and participate in conversations with the holographic personalities at night. I found the latter to be the more enjoyable of the two sets of activities.