Few games have a nobler goal than Bury Me, My Love.
Like This War of Mine before it, Bury Me, My Love seeks to highlight a humanitarian crisis, giving you a greater understanding and a greater degree of empathy for those who flee their country in search of a better life. And in that respect, it’s a success; I had my eyes opened to the struggles that many refugees face, thanking my lucky stars that I’ll likely never be in their shoes.
I was on tenterhooks as Nour, my virtual wife, struggled through an unfamiliar forest, abandoned by those who pledged to escort her to safety. And I glowed as, having fled the war in her Syrian homeland, she plunged into another conflict just to help those in need. Each time she sent me a text message, the game’s primary means of relaying its story, I prayed it’d be some recent observation or terrible pun, rather than more bad news.
You’re never entirely in sync with your protagonist, Nour’s husband Majd, but for the most part it’s the mundanity of their conversations that make their relationship so believable. Often you’re just choosing which of two available responses to send; responses which have no real impact on the storyline yet which underline how comfortable they are with each other.
Nour is more self aware, and less wilfully oblivious, than your average adventure game protagonist. There are times when she’ll override your suggestions, and the game will even call itself out on this; Majd asking Nour why she’s asking when she’s already made her mind up. But it’s easy to forgive, given that it adds another note of truth to the pair’s relationship – a relationship which, again true to life, doesn’t always run smoothly.
The bumps in Nour’s journey, however, are harder to overcome than those in her relationship. Her plight tugs at your heartstrings not because her situation is so desperate, but because of how she tries to disguise it as she texts back and forth. Commendably, and appropriately, Bury Me, My Love features choices that have genuine, if not immediately obvious, consequences that go beyond someone getting grumpy because you wouldn’t side with them when you in an argument.
Nour, despite her situation, acts as the voice of reason; her sense of self-preservation steering you clear of any obviously idiotic or clear-cut choices. Instead, you’re faced with such fuzzy decisions as whether to have her pay twice the agreed price for a taxi, or trust someone who says they’ll give you a lift. Nour’s gender adds another discomforting layer to proceedings; Bury Me, My Love pitches her into to horrifying scenarios, underlining that, as a woman travelling alone, Nour is more vulnerable than Majd would be.
There are times when Bury Me, My Love tips the balance and the stream of text chatter becomes a little tedious, particularly when you haven’t made a meaningful decision in some time. You’re able to track Nour’s progress on a map as she wends her way towards Europe, but Bury Me, My Love would benefit from some other diversion, such as an in-game news feed. It’s a game that stands up to multiple playthroughs, each ending with a sobering voicemail from Nour, but there’s no option to skip through conversations you’ve already had, which doesn’t help.
The former omission likely stems from the game’s second significant issue: Bury Me, My Love began life as a mobile game and it seems that relatively little has been done to enhance it. The Nintendo Switch version of the game has a feature whereby you can play the game in portrait mode, but the touch controls are rather unwieldy. So you’re left playing it with a joypad, which makes it harder to ease yourself into the game’s text-messaging world.
Bury Me, My Love isn’t always an easy trek, perhaps reflecting its subject matter, and it’s still better suited to mobile phones. But it’s so emotionally engaging that, despite multiple, doomed playthroughs, you won’t leave Nour’s side until you’ve guided her to safety.
Bury Me, My Love is available on PC, Nintendo Switch and mobile. We reviewed the Switch version.