Developer: The Pixel Hunt, Figs
Release Date: October 26, 2017
Platforms: iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch, Steam
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Usually, when I stream a playthrough of a narrative video game, I tend to crack a lot of jokes and be jovial and silly. Playing through Bury me, my Love on stream was quite a different experience. While video games can often distract us from the problems in the real world, providing escapism, it is possible for them to shine a light on current issues and help us to understand other people’s struggles and points of view. Bury me, my Love is challenging in a way that’s different from the typical skill challenges games present. It provides challenge from its emotional tone and difficult choices. As a primarily text-based game, Bury me, my Love does not require precise inputs or complicated inventory management. Instead, the game gives the player a simple experience that can open them up to the difficulties being faced by refugees across the world in a transformative, moving, powerful way.
The game is set in the real world ongoing conflict of the Syrian civil war and related refugee crisis. The exact time setting of the game is Spring of 2016, and the game starts on March 4, 2016, and time progresses sequentially, with the ending date depending on your playthrough. The Syrian civil war is the backdrop for the reason Nour leaves, and is ongoing for the playable character, Majd, who stays behind in Homs, Syria. However, the focus is entirely on Nour’s journey, and as she travels she passes through various locations in the Middle East and Europe, which feature as the primary settings for the actual game.
Bury me, my Love is described as an “Instant Messaging Adventure” game. The UI of the game looks like a cell phone texting application, and it never really strays from that visual. The game is played by making a choice between provided options of texts or emojis or pictures that you send as the playable character, Majd.
As Majd, you communicate through the phone to your wife, Nour, who is journeying as a refugee to find a safe future in Europe. This simple interface might sound like it wouldn’t be effective or affective, but I found it to be both. Like many people alive today, I’ve agonized over sending a text, and this game epitomizes that feeling, but with a weight and seriousness I’ve never personally had to deal with.
The decisions usually feel important, and the choices I made felt respected by the game, although sometimes the results were surprising. There were only a few times where I felt a disconnect with Majd, the player character, in terms of the choices I was given. In those rare instances that I couldn’t relate with either of the options I had, I was briefly taken out of the experience. However, again, that was rare.
My only other criticisms of how the game plays relates to the auto progression of the text. The game progresses in a way that can make it feel realistic, with texts coming in fast, but I would have preferred an option to press a button to advance. Sometimes when distracted I missed texts, and the last day’s text often came right before a scene transition. At least on the Switch version in docked mode, I couldn’t find a way to go back to previous days texts. Although in handheld, it was possible if a little bit of a hassle, to click on a previous day and swipe up.
The game is a relatively short experience, my first playthrough took roughly two hours. It’s quite a heavy emotional game, and it may be hard to quickly restart for another playthrough, but there are 19 different possible endings, with various routes that Nour can traverse on her journey, adding quite a bit of replay value.
It’s hard to discuss this game without discussing the real-world backdrop and implications of the Syrian civil war and the experience of refugees and migrants. Indeed, that is undoubtedly the purpose of the game. To expose players around the world to these realities. It can be easy to think of people going through such turmoil as other, different, or at the least far away. Bury me, my Love brings a direct connection to people experiencing losing their homeland and their sense of safety, and made me reflect deeply upon it because it felt like I could relate and see myself and my partner in them. Majd and Nour seem like they could be my friends, my family, or even me.
This real world connection makes Bury me, my Love one of the most impactful video games I have ever experienced, and showcases the ability of games to connect with true stories from around the world. I was struck playing this game with just how lucky my life has been, and I felt a sense of shame*** when I didn’t recognize place names or know how to pronounce them. It made me want to learn more. This game helps to prove that video games can be more than simply escapism or frivolous fun.
The game is made up almost entirely of text, and resembles a cell phone messaging app. However, there are occasions where Nour and Majd exchange pictures, allowing the player to see the characters and some of the locations. These images are sepia-tone hand-drawn art, and convey the personalities of the characters shown and the realities they’re facing.
The music is sparse and languid. While I think more music might have added something to the game, I didn’t find myself feeling any absence of music really. I’d only realize it when the music started. The music seemed to only come in at a handful of times in my playthroughs.
Despite the lack of music and visuals, the game was still quite engrossing.
I found myself agonizing over specific decisions in this game, and emotionally invested. At times it made me feel emotional and anxious and embarrassed that I didn’t know the geography. These aren’t the typical feelings that stereotypical video games evoke. For me, a game like Bury me, my Love, is worth playing and considering because of this. While escaping into a power fantasy or something simple and pleasant has its place, Bury me, my Love shows us that games can do much more, like educate us, help us empathize, and grow as people and players.
Have you played Bury me, my Love? What was your experience of the game? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on the Boss Rush Discord.
IMAGES SOURCE: Ico Partners