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Alone With You

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
Genre: Adventure
Developer: Benjamin Rivers Inc.
Release Date: Feb. 9, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PC Review - 'Alone With You'

by Brian Dumlao on May 9, 2017 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Alone With You is a sci-fi, narrative-driven existential adventure game where you'll figure out what it means to be alive and contemplate the kind of relationship you can have with artificial intelligence.

One of the many things that indie games get credit for is the resurgence of the interactive story. While many might think of walking simulators like Lifeless Planet or Firewatch, other titles like Event[0] have you solving some light puzzles before rewarding you with more character interactions or a better backstory for your situation. Benjamin Rivers is no stranger to this kind of game thanks to Home, his previous title that offered up a good story but basic gameplay. His latest title, Alone With You, amps up the gameplay elements, but the story will likely captivate who plays the title.

Alone With You begins with you — a self-named, genderless character in a spacesuit and a scarf — overlooking a chasm on an alien planet. Once you return to your ship and your base, you'll learn that you're the only person left, alongside an AI that helps with maintenance. A catastrophic event known as the Rift caused massive earthquakes, acid rain storms, and left everyone else dead. Things aren't going to improve anytime soon, so you and the AI leave the planet and contact a ship on one of the routes to pick you up. Unfortunately, you don't know too much about repairing the craft, and the AI can only do so much. A new plan is concocted: Collect necessary parts for repair by day while you converse with holographic, AI-powered versions of four specialists at night, so you can get off the planet before things get worse.

The game is, effectively, split into two gameplay types. By day, you're given a task to search for useful items for survival or to repair your ship. That can be anything from checking the viability of plants that produce food or scanning for junk that can be salvaged to improve fuel consumption. Along the way, you'll also find some odd tidbits, like an old faded photograph or pieces of an unfinished novel that'll be useful later on.

From an adventure game perspective, this is fairly bare-bones. Your time in each facility is spent scanning items once, and no other interaction is really needed. You'll pick up an item here or there, and their uses are automatic, so you don't need to fiddle around and figure out how to solve the few puzzles you'll encounter. The puzzles are rather easy, and a handful exhibit the traits you'd find in more traditional point-and-click offerings. Those expecting some kind of challenge in this realm will be disappointed.

At night, once your tasks for the day are done, you can spend time with one of the four key AI holographs that are helping you repair the ship. Your choice of who you'll meet up with will depend on your earlier mission, but the flow is always the same. You'll have conversations about what you saw and how progress is going, but you can also ask about some personal things, provided you found the appropriate items during your expedition.

The conversations and what you glean from them are perhaps the strongest aspect of Alone With You. The dialogue elicits some emotions, and seeing how complicated their lives were before and after the Rift give you a better idea of the people than character descriptions would. It's both fascinating and tragic to see them react to news of their deaths or deal with the holes in their memories, and reading about how they look at their time with the colony makes them some really deep characters. In a way, it captures the strongest elements of a visual novel but combines it with a subject that few would expect.

About the only complaint you'll find in this area is in the game's lack of choice when engaging with these characters. While it seems like you have some options when discussing the mission or something personal, you'll have to choose all of them since the game always circles back to the selection screen, and it only moves forward when all of the topics have been exhausted. You get a bit more freedom when it comes to spending special moments with some characters, but it doesn't change much until the end, when you get a little blurb specifically from that character. The only real choice you have is at the end, which is significant since it dramatically changes the tone of the game. The story is told well enough that the lack of choice doesn't hurt as much as one might think.

The developer has called the graphical style an homage to the Sega CD, and except for the bloom lighting present on some light sources, you'd be fooled into thinking this was indeed a game that could've come from the era of that Genesis add-on. The high pixel count from modern games is present, but the colors adhere to the 512-color limitation of the system and preserve that old look. Transparencies are handled in a similar manner, while there's also a gray film overlay on every scene that dirties things up. Animations are appropriately smooth, so the fluidity is there but not too pronounced, while the cutscenes are done in a way that the human models look fine but nowhere near lifelike. Be warned, though, that the game produces a ton of flashing effects when scanning objects and when going to and from holographic areas, so those photosensitive individuals should take heed.

On the audio side, the sound effects do their part, and the game has no voice work to accompany the large amount of text that's presented to the player. The music is appropriately moody and synthesized to fit the older sci-fi setting. It plays well enough that it makes for good background listening both in and out of the game. The default levels for the music and sound effects are far too loud compared to any other game, so even if you're playing with headphones, you'll want to drop your device's overall volume or jump to the Options screen and turn down everything to make it a more pleasant experience.

Your enjoyment of Alone With You will depend greatly on your expectations. If you're taking it as a traditional adventure game, then you'll be left wanting more. You'll spend more of your time walking than solving anything, and the few puzzles that are available present very little challenge. If you're looking for a melancholy sci-fi tale, Alone With You delivers on that expectation quite well. The illusion of choice is broken rather quickly, but the characters and their dialogue more than make up for it, and the intriguing tale comes to some satisfying conclusions. Alone With You is recommended for that latter group, but anyone who's looking for an adventure game that's a bit out of the ordinary should also check it out.

Score: 8.0/10

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