Review: Alone With You (PS4/PSV/PSTV)

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Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy Yes
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Alone With You
Format: PlayStation Network Download (PS4 1.32 GB) (PSV 463 MB)
Release Date: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Benjamin Rivers Inc.
Developer: Benjamin Rivers Inc.
Original MSRP: $9.99 (US), €9.99 (EU), £7.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
Alone With You is exclusive to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.
The PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita download versions were used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
Josh gives an audio review for this game on Episode 488 of the podcast at 169:38.
Ep488

PREFACE:
Alone With You seems like a simple game. A game with little depth. It is not a simple game. It is an onion of a game with many layers.

Gameplay:
You play as a helmeted generic character which you name. The interactions with the holographic characters begin in a friendly way because you need each of them to contribute to your goal. However there are opportunities to explore the relationships further. You may choose whichever character you’d like to engage. Your character is genderless.

The game starts in what looks like a DOS environment. For many of you, that means it starts by looking like a video game you inserted by way of a floppy disc into a Commodore 64. If that was a thing. I understand old time video games but because we were really poor when I was growing-up I may have missed something. My family’s money was spent on me being an alto saxophone prodigy. Which I was.

I like the idea that a game in 2016 harkens back so literally to a decades by-gone era but has the strength and depth of gameplay to deliver what we then wished we had.

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The initial video is all 16-bit arcade cabinet. It’s an artistic statement. All this computing power and the developers choose 16-bit? Where does all the rest of that RAM and GPU effort go? How does it play out? Is that what we are here to discover? Not at all! It’s a game. Play it.

In a superficial way it reminds me of Gone Home. Alone With You carries the distinction of being alive in this moment with high stakes and not just wandering about an environment to ascertain what happened in the past. In this case, we are desperately trying to save the future.

… remember how this game works …
There is some amount of backtracking but the design of the environment is unique enough for each area that you shouldn’t be confused about where you are while putting these puzzle pieces together.

The earliest sections of Alone With You do show the way to solutions without hand holding by simply presenting situations which have obvious solutions. It’s up to the gamer to remember how this game works.

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Is a door not available? You might find a tool of some kind somewhere. You also must pay attention to the written word. If a password is needed you’ll find it. If you’re feeling stuck think, “Am I an idiot?” At one point in the game I was!

(HEY EDITOR! Further into the game I came across a line. “Dammit, Ashley, what are we going to do?” It sounds like an outtake from RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE. Of course in this instance it would be a challenge where the contestants have to make gowns from poison oak and not complain about nor demonstrate the itching! The following week they all have to make gowns from construction paper dipped in Calamine Lotion and adhered to the corresponding rashes in a too, too fabulous tribute to Erasure’s cover of Supernature!) (HEY REVIEWER! Remember that episode of Three’s Company, “A Camping We Will Go“? Poison oak was involved here as well and, apologies to Ann Wedgeworth, but for some reason that’s the first thing that popped into my head when reading Drag Queens and poison oak…)

SIDEBAR
If you’ve been keeping-up with my reviews, and why wouldn’t you?, you may know that my foremost pet peeve is time-wasting. If a game wastes my time for any reason, and there never is a good reason because time is life’s most precious currency, I will not look kindly upon that game.

Alone With You seems to value my time as much as the developer valued their own!

Saves are logical. Saves don’t happen every two minutes but they occur after each benchmark so that if you have to quit the game, save points will be the last thing you achieved. These benchmarks are not hours apart. Another good thing! You feel like you’re making progress every few minutes.

Since the game is Cross-Buy on PS Vita, Alone With You makes a superb game for on-the-go. Particularly with its branching narrative. Play one way at home and another on the train, plane, and dirigible. Also get two Platinum trophies for so doing!

… There is a mystery at work …
The story is paramount. The gameplay is fun but the story… oh the story. The DualShock 4 certainly lends tactile and auditory engagement, connecting the player to the story in exciting ways while PS Vita allows the gamer to make two sets of utterly different choices.

As the game has romance elements you will encounter holographic characters with whom to make an impression and who may make an impression upon you. This is where the game shows its inclusive nature if you happen to care about such things.

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The plot thickens. This game is never quite what you think it is. Like a good book or a shocking TV Series, it delivers twists and turns worthy of your favorite cable TV shows. There is a mystery at work as yet another layer of storytelling. You’ll feel parts of it and see glimpses as to the nature of the mystery but you won’t know precisely what it is.

The holograms you’re conversing with at night have holes in their memories you need to fill with discoveries you make during the day while you explore various areas. It will color how you perceive them as the game progresses. You may be wrong but you may be right. (HEY EDITOR! See what lame thing I did there?) (HEY REVIEWER! That’s it, I’m movin’ out.)

… the perfect balance between story and presentation …
I was concerned that the written words may be too small on the Vita but that isn’t the case. Not only are the 16-bit graphics wonderful on Vita but the sound is as well.

Also the Trophies are separate on PS4 and PS Vita meaning you get one Cross-Buy game with two Platinum Trophies.

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Visuals:
The 16-bit presentation of the game’s graphics lend the same gravitas as any contemporary black and white film shot today.

There is more than budget consideration to be made when deciding the look of a video game. As with any visual media, the idea is always about the reception had by the audience and the relationship between media and storytelling.

Alone With You strikes the perfect balance between story and presentation.

… not one sound out of place …
Audio:
Music ranges in tone from nearly dance music to creepy with synthesized strings and French Horns.

I used my Bluetooth Motorola headset with my PS Vita and the sound was amazing, proving that however you listen to the game, all the sound is there on PS Vita.

Ivor Stines has done an amazing job as sound designer. From the WUBB-WUBB for the holographic chamber to the emotional impact of the music, there is simply not one sound out of place.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
Sometimes, due to its retro nature, the game feels superficially “same-y”. The way turning a book’s pages is always the same. Realize that for thousands of years books did quite well as devices of entertainment, communication, and education. They do as well now.

I’m not saying Alone With You is the Harry Potter of video games. I AM saying that Alone With You is a harkening back to text-based games coupled with contemporary branching narrative gameplay that we find in Telltale Studios games without annoying glitches and quick time events that often ruin gameplay.

I loved my time with Alone With You. Not something I can say for all games as a video game reviewer. Having played it to completion on PS4 I look forward to playing it on PS Vita making different choices and hopefully gaining my first Vita Platinum Trophy.

I highly recommend this game and I hope that when you get to that last white screen with your name on it, you’ll shed at least the hint of a tear.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Keith Dunn-Fernández

Keith Dunn-Fernández

An actor/director and more lucratively an Administrative Assistant at a small paper company in NYC, Keith loves his games. And he loves to write. And he is a bit of a sarcasmo.

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