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A Highland Song (Switch) Review

by Neal Ronaghan - December 5, 2023, 12:01 am EST
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A narrative wonder filled with contemplative mountain climbing.

Developer inkle has a track record for making experimental narrative-focused games dripping with vibes, including the sky-faring 80 Days, the reverse murder mystery Overboard, and the language-translating Heaven’s Vault. Their latest game is the enigmatic mountain-climbing narrative adventure A Highland Song. Set in the Scottish Highlands, you control the young girl Moira who runs away from home in a mad dash to reach her uncle’s lighthouse and see the sea. The basic plot is relatively straightforward as your end goal is laid out right away, but through a few dynamic replays, impactful revelations and a wealth of tantalizing narrative threads add a gripping emotional weight to the whole experience.

A Highland Song tells a story that can only be told in games because the way it unfolds is all related to your play, building as you uncover new paths and figure out different connections. Moira initially has two maps that show off two different mountain peaks with hidden paths nearby. Matching the map to the right peak will give you the inclination of where the hidden path is and once you find the path, you can move to a new area, find a new map, and seek out more peaks and paths. It’s difficult to parse out the full scale and scope of the world, but that’s part of the overall point. You and Moira are desperately piecing together the right way to the sea and sometimes that can be disorienting.

Climbing and moving around the hills and mountains is straightforward, featuring a lot of context sensitive inputs that allow Moira to ascend, descend, run, and jump. Figuring out the right way to climb to a new height or safely get down to a new path in a valley requires planning and timing. Or you can just say “eff it” and jump down and incur some amount of fall damage (or lose all your health and fail). A day/night cycle and weather also factors into your maneuvering, so you need to keep an eye out on shelters to wait out storms and rest.

The flow of the game is glorious, and once I got a hang of it I was mesmerized exploring the gorgeous countryside, picking up intriguing clues and learning bits of wider lore that, at least in my time with the game, led to some gratifying and heartbreaking payoffs. This is a beautiful game with watercolor-esque backgrounds, impressive lighting, and gorgeous animation. The music complements the visuals with beautiful Scottish folk music (from acclaimed bands Talisk and Fourth Moon). I love the music, but I didn’t love the recurring rhythm game segments that highlighted the music. Especially in handheld mode, it was difficult to read the differences between buttons as you moved across the ground, tapping the right button as Moira ran over it. There are a lot of options to change the difficulty of different aspects of the game, including the rhythm game parts, but I generally like rhythm games and I was disappointed to have an issue with it.

Even with my relatively minor issues, A Highland Song is a powerful game filled with a distinct mystique. The overall goal requires playing through it a few times, but with each playthrough, you have more peaks and paths accessible right from the get-go. This is a game that is about optimizing your way through the mountains but also grapples with the reality that that level of optimization isn’t feasible. That ethereal otherworldliness lingers throughout every engrossing hour, beckoning you to find the most efficient path to the lighthouse while also tying up every loose end. This is a beautiful, gorgeous game that shouldn’t be missed.


  • Beautiful animation and scenery
  • Engaging exploration and replayability
  • Engrossing story
  • Immaculate vibes
  • Rhythm game segments

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Game Profile

Genre Adventure

Worldwide Releases

na: A Highland Song
Release Dec 05, 2023

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