Craft beers for craft games

Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) paired with Undercurrent IPA by Bent River Brewing

Ever since I first saw the trailer, I’d been interested in Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) but had never gotten around to playing it. I was drawn to the female Iñupiaq protagonist and the inspiration behind the narrative. Never Alone was created by Upper One Games: “the first indigenous-owned and operated digital game developer.” Alaska Native community members and game developers collaborated to create Never Alone, and the result was beautiful, interactive, folklore.

During my most recent Benz Beverage Depot run, I built my own 6-pack and included Undercurrent IPA. Considering Never Alone’s setting—the ice-cold water and harsh winds that often push you into it—now seemed like the perfect time to finally play Never Alone. It was my first time having anything from Bent River Brewing, located on the Mississippi River’s Illinois border, but I took it based on the recommendation of my best friend and beeritual guide, Sam Caldwell.

With some level of hype surrounding both of the game and the beer, I figured I was guaranteed at least a moderately enjoyable experience. Let’s dive in:

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Never Alone’s invocation is an appealing one. We begin the game and are met with narration—subtitled in any of 10 languages and spoken in Iñupiaq—accompanied by traditional scrimshaw art. Never Alone invites us into the Iñupiaq story of Kunuuksaayuka (the Blizzard Man) and Nuna’s quest to find the source of the blizzard. Along her journey, a white fox and various spirits aid her. This particular narrative comes from tribal elder Robert Nasruk Cleveland, released via his daughter’s permission.

As far as gameplay mechanics, Never Alone is a straight-forward action-puzzle platformer. Nuna can pull objects, jump, swim (at times), and throw her Bola. The white fox can jump, wall jump, draw in spirits, and gain additional powers toward the end. There’s nothing particularly exciting about the gameplay outside of the joy of making a few difficult jumps.

Never Alone allows you to switch between characters or play in local co-op mode. As soon as I realized this, I went down the hall to my friend’s dorm room and invited her to play with me. Together, Katherine (the white fox) and I (Nuna) ventured forth. The experience was incredible, and I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it nearly as much alone. Both of us geeked out over the cut-scenes and were able to problem-solve the puzzles together. And I have to say, there’s always been something heart-warming about two real life friends playing as two virtual friends.

The true appeal of this game comes from the art and story. You want to know what happens next, and you feel invested in the characters. And the play value, in my opinion, resides in the co-op experience.

This game is created as a way to strengthen a community while connecting with other communities. And so, it makes sense that Never Alone is best if you’re, well… never alone.

Recommend this game as a co-op (it’s short enough to play in 1-2 sittings, max). But I have reservations of playing it by yourself.

As for the beer, I love IPAs because—as a fan of hop—I rarely find an IPA/pale ale I don’t like.  That being said, Undercurrent IPA is solid. It’s enjoyable but nothing to write home about. Undercurrent IPA’s true personality exists in its generous (but not overpowering) 6.8% ABV and its malt flavor. I’d recommend this beer for those who like brown beers, don’t like being overwhelmed by hops, or an IPA fan looking for beer that does something different.

While Undercurrent IPA underwhelms in flavor, Never Alone underwhelms in gameplay/difficulty. And that’s fine. What they both offer is something different. And when combined, they make for a lovely afternoon. So take a sip of this malty IPA and try not to let the winds push you into the water.


Salt and Sanctuary paired with Mission Dark Seas IPA

I love Dark Souls.  It’s brutal, unforgiving, darkly beautiful, and incredibly immersive.  After finally breaking through the difficulty wall, I was hooked and am waiting like an addict for Dark Souls III.  I came across a preview of Salt and Sanctuary on YouTube last year after watching some lore videos.  The prospect was intriguing; a 2D platformer/action game heavily (almost too much so) influenced by the Dark Souls franchise.  What better way to speed up the waiting process for Dark Souls III?

Because the game begins with the main character being shipwrecked during a storm and marooned on a mysterious island, the Dark Seas IPA felt appropriate. Its heavy flavor, dark color, and high alcohol content (9.8 percent) fit perfectly with the game I was playing.

Salt and Sanctuary is a Dark Souls clone, with the word Salt replacing the word Soul.  Enemies drop salt when killed, which you use as in-game currency. If you die, (and you will repeatedly) you lose all your salt and have to return to that spot to reclaim it.  Die along the way, and it’s gone forever. An interesting twist, compared to Dark Souls, is that if an enemy kills you, your Salt empowers it, making your next encounter far more dangerous.  Boss battles are exceptional; each boss is unique, difficult, but able to be bested through hard work and patience.

The game is beautiful.  It feels like you’re moving around in a painted world.  A painted world designed by Tim Burton and Eli Roth, however. Like Dark Souls, the world is decaying and peppered with horrendous monstrosities. Your first area is titled ‘The Festering Banquet.’  And it maintains that theme throughout.

There are some glaring flaws, however.  Most obvious is the lack of a map!  In Dark Souls, it’s much easier to avoid becoming lost because the world is 3D.  You can have a castle or a hub as a marker to let you know where you are.  But Salt and Sanctuary is a 2D game, so you can only see the few feet in front of you.  I spent a majority of my time accidentally going through areas I’d already been and boringly searching for the right door to lead me to the new area.  Also, the jump button doesn’t always respond immediately, which makes the platforming sections a pain.  Finally, if you’re going to copy Dark Souls so obviously, at least copy the controls. I died too many times in my first few hours because I kept accidentally using the Dark Souls controls.


I am going to recommend both the game and the beer but with a disclaimer. You will enjoy Salt and Sanctuary if you are a Dark Souls fan. It is not welcoming to newcomers and clearly aimed at Dark Souls veterans. Likewise, you will enjoy the Dark Seas IPA if you enjoy black, bitter beer. It’s very hoppy, bitter and strong (that alcohol content gets to you quickly if you’re not careful). Basically, if you’re a pessimistic masochist like I, you’ll love this game and beer. But if you’re a happy-go-lucky optimist, steer clear.