Alone With You is described by its creator, Benjamin Rivers, as “a sci fi romance adventure” – so, does it fulfil this brief? Yes; to an extent. I guess that’s the TL:DR done with.
You play as the lone survivor of a terraforming project gone awry on Epsilon Eridani B, which is a planet located approximately ten light years away from our own pale blue dot. Interestingly, this exoplanet was actually discovered by a scientist called Bruce Campbell. Sadly, not that one.
You begin your adventure overlooking a desolate landscape, before hopping into your shuttle and returning to base, where you are greeted by your companion, the colony’s AI (officially called AF4B/3B, but mostly just referred to as “the AI” throughout the game). The AI has a plan to get you off of this lonely and forsaken rock, but the Escape Ship needs some upgrades and repairs before it will be spaceworthy. Unfortunately, the AI doesn’t have the specialist technical knowledge required, so has resurrected four of the dead crew (via the Holo Sim chamber) to work on the problems in the background. The AI can also spare the resources at night to allow you to talk to each of the Holos with the aim of improving both your own and their mental fortitude.
What follows is quite highly structured; every day you get up, visit the AI, discuss what you need to achieve that day, head out in your shuttle to the selected location, explore until you find what you need (and discover more of the backstory of what happened to the Colony), return to the shuttle, sleep a while, get woken in the middle of the night when the Holo Sim is ready, converse with that day’s holo (determined by where your mission during the day was) and then return to bed. This structure makes sense in the context of the story, but can feel a bit monotonous on days when the exploration level is small.
Graphically, the game has a gorgeous and lovingly executed 16-bit style, which makes what is a quite a grim tale far easier on the eyes (and brain). Alone with You is sonically impressive too, with atmospheric and immersive soundscapes that vary according to location and situation. The controls are incredibly simple, with no inventory (an item can only be used in the “correct” place). You simply use the left analogue stick to move, with occasional button presses to advance (X to go through doors/perform actions, R2 to scan items).
You are despatched to each location with a mission (e.g. collect medical supplies or communications equipment) and then need to thoroughly search each area to find a sufficient number of these items. There are puzzle elements (some doors have passwords that require you to find evidence elsewhere as to what the code might be) and there is often a lot of back tracking through areas to get to previously locked rooms etc.
As you progress through the game you find more evidence about what happened to the Colony and how you have ended up being the sole survivor. There are a quite a few characters involved, so it can be difficult to keep them all straight in your head (although we are definitely not at Game of Thrones levels of complexity!). Each day you report your findings to the AI, who makes a bit more progress on the repairs and on untangling the web of events.
Each night you get to talk to a character in the Holo Sim. For me, this was the only real let down in this otherwise excellent game – the dialogue can be a bit stilted, and I would have liked a wider variety of response options (you normally get three, but they all seem very similar). By forming a close relationship with these characters it helps to stave off loneliness in you, but also makes them happier and makes their work more efficient. They are also keen to hear their own fates; they know they are dead, but not how, and are desperate to know this information should you discover it. Every fifth night you have a free choice as to who to spend time with – do you want to spend each free choice with one character? Get to know a few? The selections are up to the player, and this will potentially have effects on the game ending.
The plot is interesting, but does take a little while to get going; that being said, it is worth persevering as both the story and the puzzles improve greatly towards the end of the game. The puzzle elements are never hugely difficult, provided you periodically make notes of salient information as you go (this is normally made fairly obvious); if you don’t do this you will have to backtrack even more, which may up the frustration levels to an intolerable point.
As someone raised on point and click adventure games, I was expecting more complexity in the controls and to have an inventory for example. However, I don’t think the game suffers from this lack; it is predominantly about the narrative, and this clean interface keeps things simple. The story itself will take around six hours or so to complete, but there is definite replay value due to alternate endings. The game is beautifully styled, but I feel that the dating sim elements could definitely be expanded upon/improved with more dialogue options (also, I found myself getting characters mixed up, so requested to spend time with people that I hadn’t intended to). Alone With You is well worth picking up if you enjoy narrative driven, retro styled, sci-fi adventure puzzle games (with the barest hint of romance!) or any combination of these.
As Arthur C Clarke once said; “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”