Publisher: Sometimes You
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Release date: March 6, 2018
Price: $2.99 USD ($1.99 on Steam, “pay what you want” on itch.io)
Bite-sized Reviews differ from our more traditional, full-length reviews in that they’re restricted to smaller titles and, as the name implies, trims the fat in favor of getting straight to the point. What is this game and why should you care? Let’s get to that below!
So, what is NORTH?
A first-person narrative adventure, sometimes pejoratively referred to as a “walking simulator,” that’s artsy and experimental in nature. There’s a lot of weird imagery and the environmental storytelling is mostly left up to the player’s interpretation. You play as a man seeking asylum from the south in the more promising north (hence the name), though the story is told entirely through letters sent to the player character’s sister. You’ll wander around the city in search of things to interact with, hoping to trigger an envelope icon to appear on the screen so you can head back to a mailbox and see what your letter says. It’s as fun as it sounds. However, this is fundamental in ever figuring out what to do next, as the game features no tutorial, no options menu, nor a way to save your game — the entire experience lasts less than an hour and must be played through entirely in one go.
Why should you care?
NORTH’s narrative attempts to parallel current immigration issues facing many countries throughout the world, and the story told is admittedly somewhat interesting. It’s just not told in an interesting manner. It also has a pretty rad synthwave soundtrack that served as the game’s flagship feature. That’s… about it.
Where does it all go wrong?
For starters, the game is incredibly dark (and I don’t mean thematically). I wandered aimlessly at times because I just couldn’t see the things I was supposed to interact with. Since there’s no options menu, I had to tough it out and ended up getting stuck near the end of the game when I had to cross a thin walkway that looked a little something like this…
Yes, this is an actual screenshot I took during my playthrough. I had no idea a walkway even existed here until I gave up and looked up a video online. The game isn’t pretty to look at as it is, but hiding it beneath a thick layer of impenetrable darkness and throwing the player to the wolves probably wasn’t the best approach.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the game’s method of storytelling and would have much rather had the letters pop up as I met the proper criteria. Running back and forth to a mailbox was never, ever fun. Otherwise, NORTH does an incredibly poor job telling the player what to do next. Exploration is cool and all, but not when it doesn’t make sense.
For example, I found an ooze-covered monster that I apparently had to “feed,” so I entered a doorway nearby. Nowhere else in the game was I ever presented with a life meter, but this mineshaft area would kill me if I didn’t complete whatever it was I was supposed to do before I ran out of health. I eventually found a jackhammer I could interact with, but nothing clued me into what I was supposed to be doing. Turns out I was supposed to drink some magic cola from a machine outside that allowed me “sprint,” so I could find three buttons scattered about the mine, collect three nearby objects, and complete the objective before dying.
To top things off, when I finally figured out what I was supposed to do, the game glitched out in the final room and I was unable to interact with the last object that was necessary to roll the credits. I scoured the room for 30 minutes, fearing that I had missed something. Again, I went back to YouTube, watched the same video, and discovered I should have been able to finish the game… but I couldn’t. That’s always fun.
Okay, so is it worth checking out?
Not really, no. While it’s a neat idea in theory, it’s poorly executed. Even despite the game’s $3 price tag (or “pay what you want” on PC), there are far better ways to spend your time and money. At least the PC version comes with an 8-song soundtrack.
We don’t use a scoring system here at Cheap Boss Attack, so hopefully you found the information above far more informative than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes.
A copy of this game was provided for review purposes.