The experimental and genre-bending methods of interactive storytelling have always been Inkle’s specialty. This can be seen in the increasingly ambitious multi-part adaptation of Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! as well as the high-seas mystery of Overboard! Despite the fact that I was utterly captivated by each of these individual hybrids, I was constantly struck by a common incongruity. I had the impression that the narrative and mechanical layers of these hybrids were often in conflict with one another. It is arguable that A Highland Song is their most multi-faceted work to date since it incorporates aspects of platforming games, survival games, and rhythm games. Is it possible for those components to function as a unified whole?

Moira McKinnon doesn’t have any experience with the ocean. It is difficult for her to get along with her mother, who maintains that she is unable to attend school because she would not be accepted there. Throughout her whole childhood, her father has been absent, and her younger brother is a complete and utter bore. Therefore, when Uncle Hamish, a peculiar lighthouse keeper who often sends her postcards with fantastic tales about heartbroken selkies and enraged giantesses, urges her to come in time for Beltane, which is the Gaelic May Day, she does what any restless young girl would do in her situation. As she hastily packs a bag, she hurls an obscenity at her mother as she says goodbye, and then she starts out over a horizon that is filled with ever-rising hillcrests.

In the pouring rain, Moira is ascending a mountain.

When you first meet someone, a Highland Song is sure to be a wonderful experience. The Scottish landscape is vividly painted in the earthy browns and rich greens of pine woods, and later, as the peaks rise higher and the temperatures get lower, with the sharp whites of a sudden snowstorm. This is a remarkable sight to see. Gallivanting through these idyllic environments is a joy in itself, and, initially at least, the game does a great job of conveying the exhilaration of Moira’s newfound freedom via a myriad little visual touches: the pep oozing from every frame of her jump animation; the carefree bobbing of her ponytail as she gallops up the gentlest of slopes; the ability to zoom out for a heart-stopping panoramic view (which doubles as the best option for orienting yourself).

A soundtrack that has been painstakingly produced, consisting of cawing magpies, murmuring brooks, and Moira’s own panting breath, completes the sense of this wonderful environment. This is a world in which a rock that is relatively uncommon will be given a name that is dramatic, such as “Woe’s Wedding” or “Devil’s Tail.”

Taking a stroll, bouncing, and climbing

A Highland Song may be experienced in a variety of ways, the most basic of which is definitely aimless walking and gawking at the things that are located in the area. Platforming is the fundamental element that makes up the game’s basic DNA, despite the fact that Moira’s extraordinary athleticism removed any potential obstacle from the equation. I was able to jump over chasms, ride a landslide, or leap from crag to crag with the self-assurance of a mountain goat. Rather than that, hiking up a steep cliff to reach the upper peaks and get a sight of the Atlantic played more like a spatial puzzle. Each vertical ascent was almost like a bite-sized version of the difficult delivery missions that are featured in Death Stranding. A careful management of stamina and meticulous preparation for intermediate rests were essential in order to prevent Moira from exhausting herself halfway through the journey and plunging into the depths below, which would have resulted in the loss of valuable time and the possibility of injury.

On a loch, Moira is having a conversation with a bird.

The much-hyped rhythm runs are yet another means of transportation. These are planned lengths of (mainly) flat territory when our protagonist picks up the pace and jauntily skips to the tune of rousing Scottish folk tunes performed by Talisk and Fourth Moon, two of the most recognised bands in that scene. Despite the fact that I loved them as cheerful musical interludes, these portions seemed like they were both half-baked as primitive mini-games (containing just two input possibilities that, in addition, were not always attuned to the notes that were being played) and rather removed from the whole experience.

I discovered that the key to my enjoyment of the game was to learn how to slow down, despite the fact that both rhythm runs and the game as a whole appeared to continuously urge me ahead (not least via repeated reminders that I should reach the lighthouse in time for Beltane). It was an excuse to discover innumerable tiny diversions that poured life into the scene, such as the goshawks that roost in distant areas and disclose snippets of narrative when they fly away. Exploring different pathways became an excuse to discover these minor distractions. But even from a more pragmatic standpoint, wandering around gave me the opportunity to find items that would be useful for inventory-based puzzles along the way, as well as notes that hinted at useful shortcuts. Additionally, I was able to interact with a multitude of memorable and eccentric characters, such as the wounded soldier who has forgotten his name but is adamant that he used to be a bird and the talking statue of a mythical sea creature that was carved out of love and regret.

It’s getting late, Moira.

Nevertheless, even if I were able to influence the tempo of the game to my liking, there were other features of the game that were less adjustable that still pointed to the same incongruity. Despite the fact that the absence of a map is perfectly reasonable in the context of a game about getting lost, the intricate level design combined with controls that were awkwardly implemented (not to mention the occasional glitch that caused me to disappear in the depths of the earth or rendered interactive hotspots inactive) comprised an excessive punishment for my desire to explore. My dread of becoming stranded at the bottom of a ravine or going in circles around the same cluster of hills caused me to quickly return to the closest landmark whenever I found myself in a state of disorientation. As a consequence of this, reaching the lighthouse for Beltane (on the second attempt, because it is not possible to finish the journey in time on the first playthrough) prompted two reactions that were similarly incompatible with one another: a certain moisture in the eyes at a revelation that was not particularly shocking but was nonetheless movingly orchestrated; and a sigh of relief.

Disclosure: Features of a Computer Gamer in the Past In the production of A Highland Song, producer Nat Clayton served as a level designer.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *