Bury Me, My Love review for Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: Plug In Digital
Developer: Pixel Hunt
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

I don?t think there are many games out there like Bury Me, My Love. For starters, it?s essentially a Choose Your Own Adventure-style visual novel, which isn?t a genre that?s particularly popular in North America. Not only that, its subject matter is far different from the kind of content you?d usually associate with visual novels — far from being some romantic romp where a Japanese teen has to pick from a range of suitors, Bury Me, My Love is the harrowing story of a Syrian refugee trying to make her way out of her war-torn home to a new life in Europe, told via texts between a husband and wife.

As you can imagine, with that kind of premise Bury Me, My Love lives and dies on the strength of its writing. And given that most games aren?t exactly equipped to handle nuance or emotion, it?s easy to imagine a situation where this game just came off as an awkward mess.

Luckily, Bury Me, My Love isn?t like most games. The relationship between Nour, the woman fleeing Syria, and her husband back home, Majd, feels real and believable. The game pulls off the impressive feat of telling a story without feeling like it?s telling a story. There aren?t any huge exposition dumps; the game trusts that you?ll be able to figure things out and read between the lines where necessary, so everything flows like a real conversation, rather than like a story hitting certain beats. There are plot points, but there are also moments where you get a glimpse of the relationship between Nour and Majd, and they ring true to life enough that the whole thing feels much more believable.

It also helps that the whole thing is fairly open-ended, so you never can quite tell where the story is going to take you. There are 19 different endings, so even with multiple playthroughs, things can go different ways simply by having Majd say or suggest one thing or another. The whole thing is further complicated — in a good way — by the fact that Nour has agency of her own, and even if you suggest something to her, it?s entirely up to her whether she wants to heed your advice.

Of course, it should be noted that there?s not really any happy endings here. Bury Me, My Love aims to be true to life, which means, for the most part, you?re choosing here between the least-bad options. Choosing one path will lead to Nour being stuck in a refugee camp awaiting her asylum hearing — which isn?t such a bad fate compared to, say, drowning in a boat, or dying in the cold, or being taken away to who knows where.

Unfortunately, some of the emotional impact is lost thanks to annoying little things here and there. The game has the unfortunate tendency to crash at odd times, for starters, and even if you don?t lose much progress, you still have to explore different dialogue options to figure out which one won?t crash the game, which really diminishes the feeling of immersion. Similarly, since Bury Me, My Love takes place via texts, you can see the time stamps for every message — and occasionally, some of the dialogue doesn?t match up with the times, like when Nour talks about getting to sleep in the middle of the afternoon, or when both Majd and Nour say they?re going to do some research only to both return with what they?ve found less than a minute later.

The game?s biggest flaw, though, is that to see all those endings, you have to repeat lots of the same branching dialogue over and over again. While I get that the game?s creators probably didn?t feel that a fast-forward button was appropriate in a game like this, it really diminishes the emotional impact of some sequences when you start reading them for the third, fourth, fifth time. Given that there?s no way to save your progress (and, thus, go back to pivotal moments and make different choices), it makes it difficult to go back to the game, even though the multiple endings make it seem like that?s what was intended.

Then again, Bury Me, My Love is such a harrowing experience, it?d be understandable if one or two playthroughs was enough for you. Even with those flaws, this is an excellent game that doubles as a fascinating learning experience, and if you?ve ever wanted to see a genre venturing off into new, relatively unexplored directions, it?s well worth your investment — both financially and emotionally.

Plug In Digital provided us with a Bury Me, My Love Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A-