Not every game belongs on Switch.
Since their early days, video games have flirted with and made a push towards being choose-your-own-adventure stories. In the process of telling a cohesive narrative, these games seek to give players agency in the story so as to make the experience more engaging. We have seen successful implementation of this mechanic in BioWare’s epic RPGs Mass Effect and Dragon Age, TellTale’s The Walking Dead, and Chunsoft’s Zero Escape series. All of these games allow the character to shape the story in both major and minor ways. Bury me, my Love attempts to give the player a similar power over how its story unfolds, but the results and the method through which it does so are not nearly as gripping or satisfying.
The story follows a Syrian woman, Nour, and her fleeing the war and strife in her home country. Gameplay is completed over a series of text messages between Nour and her husband Majd, with the player choosing Majd’s responses. About half the time, you make a choice between two dialogue options or different emoji, and some of these choices push Nour to make different decisions on her journey to Europe. A key issue arises, however: it isn’t clear when you make them which dialogue choices will change her trajectory or actions.
In a game with 19 different endings, there is certainly a reason to replay the game, but you have to return to the beginning of the journey whenever you reach an ending and have no way of skipping ahead or expediting the pace of the story if you want to remake specific choices. Depending on your decisions, you can reach an ending in about 90 minutes, longer if you are reading through all of the dialogue, but Bury me, my Love doesn’t have a player-friendly way of helping you see Nour towards the multitude of locations and endings available.
Very little can be said in terms of presentation. The endings have a voiced message from Nour that plays out, but there are no videos or music in the game. Nour and Majd will exchange a dozen or so pictures, but the vast majority of the time you are looking at a cell phone screen in the middle of your Switch screen. Naturally, the default option has your typical cell phone message beeps and typing sounds, but I immediately turned them off. The default font size is painfully small, but fortunately you can increase it to a much more comfortable level.
In terms of the story and characters themselves, it definitely delivers something fresh and unique. The text message system helps the player more closely observe the bond between Nour and Majd, and it is easy to come away from the game feeling that you know these two people more intimately. Nour encounters a number of obstacles on her journey, and there is a genuine tension built when time passes and Majd desperately bombards Nour with messages, receiving no replies. The tension we all feel waiting for a text or email response is effectively replicated, but it doesn’t take full advantage of this power.
Originally, Bury me, my Love was released on mobile, and it is clear that the game was built for that platform. In the mobile version, when Nour is busy, she stops texting you, and you have to wait in real time for her to finish what she is doing and get back to you, which gives this version an alternate-reality-game feel. The Switch port eschews this concept entirely and switches to a black screen that shows a rapid progression of time, bringing you right back to the conversation. Unfortunately, the fading to black happens as soon as Nour or Majd sends their last message in a conversation, and so the player doesn’t have time to read that message. I often had to go back to a previous time period to see how a conversation ended, which disrupted the narrative flow.
I applaud Bury me, my Love for shedding light on the horrific and traumatic situation faced by refugees as they leave their lives behind in search of safety and salvation. As a narrative experience, it tells a meaningful and powerful tale, but the form and delivery on Switch simply don’t lend themselves to being player-friendly or engaging. On mobile, It follows in the footsteps of excellent alternate-reality titles like Lifeline, and such games are perfectly suited to that platform. In making the jump to Switch, what gives Bury me, my Love its charm is lost, and the process of revisiting the story is just too frustrating to overcome. Dig up the mobile version and leave the Switch port buried in the eShop.