Your enjoyment of Alone With You depends largely on how much you value narration. As a homage to classic 80s-style Sierra adventure games, this is first and foremost a piece of interactive storytelling. It bears thematic similarities to a lot of other science fiction stories, but the personal nature of the story gives Alone With You a somber yet relatable presence .
The basic premise of Alone With You is this: the lone survivor of a disastrous terraforming operation is trying to repair an escape pod before the planet in question explodes. This survivor, who wears their space suit through the whole game, is never really identified. You give them a name at the start, but never see any of their defining characteristics. This enables you to easily project your own identity preferences on the character. It’s a clever move in a game largely about conversation and developing deep relationships with others.
Alone With You is billed as a “sci-fi romance adventure,” which sums it up nicely. At the start, your only companion is an AI that's desperate to find a means of escape before it’s too late. A rift has formed within the structure of the planet, possibly caused (or at least exacerbated by) the mining and terraforming operations. Acid rain and earthquakes pummel the landscape amidst huge storms, causing immense damage to the various facilities on the surface.
Since time is short and you’re just one human with indeterminate skillsets, the AI does something rather radical to get the expertise necessary to repair the one remaining space ship: it creates four holographic AI representations of technicians from the former colony. These four represent the skills needed to repair the fuel, engines, food, and communications systems. More than that, however, they also provide your only link--however artificial--with humanity.
These four technicians might be simulations, but they’re seemingly conscious and human in their behavior. Since they were generated based on monitoring records, their memories only extend to the moment right before the rift occurred, stifling all outside communications. With believable emotions, your holographic comrades suffer from self-doubt regarding the nature of their being.
Alone With You isn’t a personality simulation or AI experiment, though. It’s a fairly linear interactive novella. The game moves in days, and each day you can visit one location. Each location is associated with one of the four holographic crew members. Conversations are often one-sided, as you listen to characters talk about their work, their lives, and their relationships. At certain times, you’ll be prompted to select one of few responses, which convey positivity, negativity, or ambivalence.
The rest of the game revolves around exploration, item hunts, and puzzles. Each location contains logs, journals, and even stories to discover that add depth to the characters and your dire situation. You’ll have to find specific items necessary to repair the ship, ranging from crystalline fuel and ship parts to viable sources of food. It's a simple task unfortunately made time-consuming due to how difficult it can be to spot key items in environments filled with potential objects of interest.
The characters, including the base’s AI, are all fully realized individuals that lend surprising emotions to the simple interactive experience.
In a particularly old school nod, I found myself having to pay far more attention to all those notes and logs to solve puzzles. None of the puzzles in the game are overly challenging, but there’s no quest log and you never find a handy list of texts. As a result,I frequently had to take notes to remember clues, names, and numbers needed to figure out passwords and door codes.
Of the artificial men and women you interact with, you can bond with whomever you wish, leading to once-a-week private rendezvous with subtle romantic undertones. These dialogue sequences add depth to the characters and overall story, and do a great job of it. The holograms’ main goal is getting you off the planet alive, and while their self-confidence wavers, they never veer from that objective. Alone With You is remarkably well-written, even when it delves into dangerously melodramatic waters. The characters, including the base’s AI, are all fully realized individuals that lend surprising emotions to the simple interactive experience.
There are a couple other distinct aspects to Alone With You. The retro, heavily pixelated artwork is strangely atmospheric despite the lack of fine detail. There’s a lot of grim imagery and the overall tragic tone feels a bit more bearable without graphic depictions of death and destruction.
This is a game that warrants repeated playthroughs to see both endings and experience other relationship choices. Alone With You bears some heavy thematic overlap with recent games like SOMA, Everyone’s Gone to Rapture, and other story-centric releases that focus on the nature of what makes you human, the importance of relationships and contact, and mortality. It’s different enough to feel new despite its retro roots, delivering impactful scenes that shine thanks to a stellar script that brings its few, but emotionally charged, characters to life.