Bury me, my Love is a touching game about a Syrian refugee who texts me back quicker when she’s performing medical procedures in Aleppo than my boyfriend does when he’s right down the street. Jokes aside, the game follows Nour on her search for a better life in another country. We play as Majd, her husband, as we guide her to her destination, where they will eventually reunite. Nour sets out with the intention of making it to Germany, but Syria and Germany don’t exactly share a border, so she encounters several country-sized obstacles along the way. The player’s job is then to help Nour tackle these obstacles and make tough decisions about where to go and how to get there.
Bury me, my Love is described as a “messaging app interactive fiction,” meaning the gameplay is essentially texting back and forth with your wife. However, the text is often punctuated with photos Nour sends of herself and her surroundings throughout her trek, or the occasional photo we get to send her of Majd. We don’t simply send whatever message the game tells us to; there are often some very impactful dialogue choices to make. Whether choosing between transportation options or even between two completely different cities, each decision felt heavy and consequential. In one nerve-wracking segment, I ended up walking Nour through a leg amputation (she’s a doctor, but had only amputated arms before). I was constantly afraid that a decision I made may get Nour arrested, hurt, or worse. Several times I felt like I may have made the “wrong” decision, but there was no way for me to go back. Like in real life, you don’t just get to skip back to a bad decision and start again. However, in the context of a video game, I would prefer to be able to go back to that choice and learn how things would have gone differently without having to redo all the same dialogue sections I had seen before. You actually can’t even go back to previous days and read through older texts, which irked me.
There are 19 different endings in Bury me, my Love, and Nour can visit 40 different locations. With that many endings, I would have loved the ability to easily change a decision without having to completely restart. However, I still understand that refugees can’t just turn back the page if they don’t like how events have unfolded. I played through a few different endings, none of which had Nour reach Germany. Instead, she ended up stuck in Bulgaria or Austria–so close! I felt emotionally invested in Nour’s journey, and I wanted to give her the best ending possible. The messaging app interface helped me feel connected to Nour in a way that other forms of gameplay may not have achieved. Some may be put off by this style of gameplay, but I think it was leveraged well when it came to telling this specific story.
Bury me, my Love was originally released on mobile, and players would get texts from Nour in real time. On the Nintendo Switch, the texts are continuous, with only a clock showing the passing of time between longer breaks. Having to wait hours and hours for Nour to reply after sending her to a new city would have left me anxious throughout the day, but may have also helped provide a sense of reality. The Switch version has a small phone-shaped display overlaying whichever photo was sent last in your conversation. There is also an option to rotate the display, but holding the handheld vertically was a bit awkward. I felt best playing the game handheld, but definitely not vertically. There were several occasions where the game suddenly crashed. Luckily when I opened the app again, it had saved my progress up until my last dialogue choice, whether that was a serious one or just choosing which emoji to send.
Other than the occasional crash, I enjoyed the time I spent with Bury me, my Love on Switch. I loved the photo backdrops, especially the soft style they’re drawn in. I thought even the photographs of ruins and crowded camps seemed beautiful. The game doesn’t have much else to look at from the photos and the messaging app interface, so I appreciated that the photos made nice backgrounds at the very least. There also wasn’t much music, but the music that was there was lovely, though often somber. My only other complaint is how the game handled its many endings. In a game where all the other storytelling was through texts and photos, the endings were provided through a voice message from Nour. There were, however, no options for subtitles, and no ability to replay the audio if you missed what she said without restarting the app. I wasn’t able to fully hear her when I first finished the game, and I missed what my ending really was.
Despite this seemingly large flaw, I still enjoyed my time with Bury me, my Love. It had a touching, emotionally-driven story told in a unique way. Dialogue choices held weight and I didn’t feel like I was choosing between a good option and a bad one, but that I had to really think about each decision and its possible consequences. I think this was a great way to tell the story of Syrian refugees. By offering many branching paths and different locations gives the sense that real refugees have to go through long journeys with difficult choices and obstacles as well. It had some beautiful art, but my awe with the game stems from its storytelling. I only wish I could revisit choices so I could more easily achieve each of its 19 different endings, just to see where Nour ends up.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game. A copy was provided by Playdius Entertainment.
Bury me, my Love is a beautiful, touching story about one Syrian refugee's journey. Its messaging app interface makes it easy to connect with and become emotionally invested in, making the storytelling all the more impactful.