review

Game Review: Bury Me, My Love – Experiencing Syria through Messages

The winner of the Google Play Indie Games Contest is all about words…

It was still early morning when I got a text from Nour asking me if she should take a boat and go straight to Izmir through a smuggler. I wanted to tell her to forget the idea and stick to the plan, but she told me that there was a little chance that she would be able to reach Greece from Istanbul by land. So, I told her to ask how much the connection would cost and she went offline after that

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Has someone asked you such a question of late? Well, hopefully not. But this the kind of situation many Syrians are facing while trying to flee their war-torn country. Thousands have died in the prolonged civil war, and there are many who are still trying to get to safe lands.

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“Bury Me, My Love,” is a game based on the story of a Syrian couple, Nour, and Majd. Nour is trying to get out of the hostile country and get to Europe while Majd is staying behind to take care of his relatives. And the only way this couple can communicate is through their smartphones. The game was made quite a while ago but has made headlines recently because it took the top game honors at the Google Play Indie Games Contest, beating out the more fancied (and better known) Old Man’s Journey. Rather strangely, the game still has a rather small number of downloads – it has not enough ratings or reviews to display a summary on the iTunes App Store, and has 5,000-10,000 installs on Google Play. Hardly the stuff of which legendary games are made. Some of this could be attributed to the relatively high price tag the game carries (Rs 249 on iOS, Rs 270 on Android)

Say you, say me: uncomplicated conversations

The basics of the game are pretty simple. In the game, you are Majd, Nour’s husband. And as she is trying to get to Europe, you have to help her in taking decisions – decisions that can change her future and where she ends up.

The game is designed to look like a chat. This is one window is where the story moves forward, with messages on the display. The game is played in real time which means Nour will message you whenever she gets time and will go offline after having a quick chat. But you can change the frequencies of the messages you get and speed of the game. You can speed up the process if playing in real time is not your thing. The game also sends you notifications when you get a text from Nour, just like real notifications. You get pre-written messages that you mostly just have to press and send, but there is a catch – you generally are presented with two options where you have to pick the one you feel will be the best for Nour. You also cannot send any messages when Nour is busy. At times, the software also allows you to select emojis and send a picture to Nour. There are generally three emojis one can choose from, but the picture is preselected.

The interface is simple, as well. On the top left, there is an icon for maps, which when tapped will tell you how Nour’s journey has progressed too far. Next to it is her display picture with a small circle which is blue when she is online and red when she is busy. On the top right is the setting icon from where you can change the basic settings of the game and change the language of the game. Rest of the screen is dedicated to the chats. It is a bit like having another chat window on your device, and blends right in without any complications – there’s no learning curve at all.

A stress buster? No, but food for thought!

Generally playing a game on your handset is associated with getting into a stress-free zone, away from the hassle of everyday life – a virtual world where the problems of the real world vanish. Bury Me; My Love is nothing like that. In fact, it is actually the opposite. The game is intense. Very intense. When someone’s future depends on the decisions, you make, and when the storyline is inspired by real-life stories, things get a little serious. There are light touches to the game, and it is not always dead serious conversations – there are light touches that will make you giggle at times, but it is not a stress buster in any regard. The decisions you take, and the outcome sometimes make you wonder if you have taken the right step, and even though you know it is a game at the end of the day, you start feeling responsible for a virtual character’s life.

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As the whole game is built around the conversations, the dialogues exchanged are the most vital part of the game, and the developers have an amazing job there. The dialogues and chats build interest in the story and bring out the personality of the two characters, adding another dimension to the game – who said you need cutting-edge graphics for a great game? And as you read more conversations and get immersed in the story of Majd and Nour, you realize how these people are just like any of us. Ordinary humans facing difficult times. Although one can alter the speed of the game and frequency of messages one gets per day, we would strongly recommend that you be patient with it and let it flow at its own pace, as the element of real-time enhances the overall experience of the game.

As per the developers, there are 19 probable endings to the game, each depending on what decisions you make along the way. We love the fact that the game is super simple and you do not need elaborate tutorials in order to start playing. That said, we think, once you have completed the game, it might not stay as engaging as the first time. This is a slow game and builds up the pace – playing it again and again can kill the tension.

Old game, relevant story

Bury Me, My Love, gets its name from an old Syrian saying, “do not die before me.” Developed by Plug In Digital, it is a relatively old game, but its story (sadly) still remains relevant. And in terms of gameplay, one of the most innovative we have come across on a mobile platform – it does not depend on graphics, action or puzzles, but is simple storytelling at its uncluttered best. The game might start slowly, but will get you hooked before you know it, and leave you pondering and wondering about the decisions you make, as you wait for yet another message. As you get involved, it might even make you question matters, empathize with those stuck in Syria and other war zones, and appreciate the little joys of life (like not having to worry about fleeing your civil war-struck country, maybe?).

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“Bury Me, My Love” is not a game you will feel like playing after having a long day at work, but it is a game you should play at least once. To learn about those less fortunate than we are. To learn the issues surrounding refugees and the hardships they undergo as they simply try to do something we all take for granted – staying alive. Play it to learn that while graphics and tech wizardry can make for spectacular games, you can still touch people by words.

Play the game. It does not come cheap. But it is worth every penny, we think. Because it will teach you to pray that you never have to say those dreaded four words to those who are yours:

Bury Me,
My Love.

Download Bury Me, My Love for iOS and for Android.