"Like the planet itself, not much happens in Alone With You."
Alone With You follows a playable character (PC) stranded on an uninhabitable planet after 16 years of a colony's effort to terraform it into what sounds like a replacement for a dying Earth. With raging storms and seismic activity worsening, the PC works with an artificial intelligence (AI) to find a way to escape the now-dying planet. Like the planet itself, not much happens in Alone With You.
Day by day, the PC travels to different sectors of the whole colony to gather supplies for the escape ship and determine what exactly happened. One might expect the PC to innately understand what happened during the crisis, since, you know, he/she/it presumably lived through the catastrophe, but clues to its destruction are provided piecemeal. This, of course, leads one to question the PC's identity, as it also doesn't even know who the director of the colony is, but like most questions in the eight-hour adventure, this is left unanswered – as far as I can tell.
Decisions can be made throughout the game, some of which appear arbitrary as each must be selected to conclude a conversation. Others, however, seem to steer the direction of one's relationship with characters, though none seem to change the way the narrative plays out. Clearly, Alone With You offers different endings depending on one's actions, but slogging through another eight hours of this ho-hum conveyer belt of mediocrity appeals to me just as much as working on an actual conveyer belt.
Alone With You doesn't really do anything wrong
, per se, but it doesn't do anything right, either. This might be the most average game I've ever played, if not the slowest. In fact, its pacing might be its grandest flaw, but it didn't have to be. For instance, getting from one place to another takes time because of the PC's prancing-esque stride, loading times disguised with door opening cut scenes, and the amount of backtracking required. I can sense that the developer was hoping to creating a feeling of absence and isolation through the long and empty passageways, but the finished product is instead one of sleep-inducing boredom.
Perhaps this experience would be better captured if the visuals and music accompanied a feeling of dread and isolation. While the music and sound certainly aren't upbeat or out-of-place, they don't evoke any mood or emotion, either. They're just – there. However, the visuals seem in stark contrast to the game's setting. Instead of dark colors and dreary landscapes, we're treated with pastels and bright purple throughout Alone With You's entirety. The developer commented on the Steam forums: "After all the rust-and-blood-and-brown of Home, it just seemed like purple was the way to go." While I can appreciate this departure from the macabre, the style chosen seems more befitting anything other than what Alone With You offers.
But what does Alone With You offer? The subtext for Alone With You is "a sci-fi romance adventure." So, where's the romance? Peppered – lightly – throughout the game are opportunities to interact with some crew members. These instances are so few and brief that little connection can be made, since the majority of my time was spent rummaging around boxes, finding clues to passwords that a young child could easily answer, and scanning innocuous objects that bear no consequence to the plot or experience. Though some bonding is hinted at, the quality of the dialogue and time spent are incongruous to the relationships' development. After finishing the game, I can only guess at what is meant by "romance," as the term is used liberally. Perhaps I didn't choose to talk to the right people or didn't approach the AI in the right way, but I honestly couldn't care less at this point.
If I weren't reviewing Alone With You, I would not have finished it. This review reads pretty damning, and I feel bad for that. What the developer was trying to do here feels on the cusp of something grand. If different design decisions were made or the dialogue was fleshed out more – if the presentation was more powerful and aligned with the setting – then this could have easily been a positive commentary. Unfortunately, that's not what we got. The tragedy of the colony and its talented inhabitants could have been a story worth telling, but like the colonists that remain on the desolate planet, it's better left undiscovered
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.