Sam Leith Sam Leith

Original and absorbing: A Highland Song reviewed

This video game excellently simulates the experience of going outside for a walk – and regretting it

Grade: A-

Why don’t you go outside and get some fresh air instead of playing that stupid game? A) I’ve been outside, and I didn’t like it. And B) there’s a game for that. A Highland Song excellently simulates the experience of going outside for a walk and regretting it.

Moira sets off to meet her Uncle Hamish at the lighthouse – but like Virginia Woolf’s lot, takes her sweet time getting there. Once you’re 100 yards from her front door, she has no idea where she is. Despite her och-aye-hoots brogue, she turns out to be no less clueless than the tourists who head up Ben Nevis in flip-flops and have to be helicoptered back to civilisation by mountain rescue three days later. Think of this as a getting-lost-in-the-glens simulation.

You guide her anime avatar through a schmaltzy but atmospheric series of watercolour-style landscapes, where rocky ridges and windswept peaks are layered over blue remembered hills. Moira scrambles up slopes, teeters on cliff faces and gets stuck in trees. Is that a pathway? Nope. Stuck again. Try to sit down for a health-boosting Curly Wurly and, unless you’ve found a bothy, you’ll perk up only very slowly. Messages explain why: ‘dreich’; ‘exposed’; ‘wind chill’; ‘I’ve grazed ma knee!’

But then, jings, you’ve bagged a map fragment or another munro, the sun comes out, and the ethereal pipes on the soundtrack give way to something a bit more skirling as you chase a deer downhill, leaping in time to the music. A Highland Song puts the twee into tweedy more than it puts the art into tartan, but it’s original and absorbing. You can easily get lost in it. 

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