North (Switch) Review

Gone South

Warning: Bizarre Imagery Ahead

After playing and completing the game North within the span of an hour, I can safely say that I have no idea what I witnessed. And that’s actually the point of this light adventure/walking simulator that puts you in control of a refugee in a strange land. The game opens with a letter explaining the protagonist’s situation to his sister. After escaping the presumably horrible South, he has arrived in a city in the North, which is portrayed as a dark, dystopian landscape.

Please be sure to check out the Video Version of my review!

From there, in your quest to seek asylum, you engage in several seemingly unrelated jobs such as exploring the mines and passing a test. The tasks are extremely obtuse. When I first entered the mines, I didn’t realize I only had a limited amount of time to explore before the screen suddenly cut to black telling me that I died. With every attempt, I thought that maybe I was getting closer to success, but I ultimately had no idea what my end goal was. The first screen of the game informs you that you need to send letters to your sister to understand anything, and it’s completely true. Not only are the letters the only means of conveying the story, but they’re also mini strategy guides that tell you exactly what you need to do.

North Nintendo Switch Review City
Welcome to the North.

It’s a problematic game design where the puzzles make such little sense that you are actually required to receive the answers from the game itself. Sure, you could stumble around and figure it out by chance, but you’d still need the letters to contextualize whatever you did. It’s a demoralizing loop, which is likely the developer Outland’s intention.

North Nintendo Switch Review Letter
I hope there’s a Collector’s Edition strategy guide version of these letters.

North is meant to simulate life as a refugee in a foreign land where the customs seem strange and you’re forced to engage in odd jobs that you know nothing about. Not to mention that everyone is a weird alien-like creature that speaks another language, making communication impossible. Well, except in this case, the protagonist CAN understand everyone else. When you talk to alien creatures, you only hear garbled noise but the letters that the protagonist sends make it clear that the he comprehends them, which is the only reason why he knows what to do. It’s silly that the translation skill doesn’t extend to you.

North Nintendo Switch Review Eye
Thanks for inviting me to your shindig… Oh…

It’s an interesting premise with a deep message, and the simulation effectively confused and weirded me out at every turn. However, that doesn’t make it fun. First of all, it feels cheap that the only way to solve a puzzle is to look up the answer in-game. Second, the tasks are dull and straightforward once you’re told what to do. They all consist of looking for certain objects or answering questions correctly. In the previous example with the mines, after you learn that you have to drink a tonic to run, the task is a no-brainer. But what upset me most was a glitch I encountered during that segment; I drank the tonic for super speed before knowing how to solve the puzzle. After sending the letter to earn my mini guide, I discovered that for some reason, I could no longer drink the tonic again, which made it impossible for me to get through the mines. Since the game has no save function, I had to start over. Luckily, the entire game is only an hour long, but the ordeal was still infuriating. How was I to know there was a glitch when nonsensical events were a regular occurrence here?

North Nintendo Switch Review Crosses.jpg
Just turn around…

Moreover, the dark visuals in some areas made it difficult to find anything, be it a door or a ramp. The simplistic textures, blocky polygons, and choppy frame rate gives the impression of an early PlayStation 2 game, taking away from the intended immersion. The display on the Nintendo Switch tablet is even worse, due to the lowered resolution and grainy picture quality. Though, I will admit that the frightening imagery was fascinating. There are technically no jump scares in the game, but I was creeped out the entire time due to the bizarre creatures, gross pictures, and just plain weird setting. A soft, unsettling music plays throughout, invoking a sense of fear and dread. Oddly enough, there are a couple of areas that play fast-paced techno beats that, while decent, feel out of place.

North Nintendo Switch Review Doctors.jpg
Oh, uh, hi guys.


North is a unique experience that didn’t necessarily need to be a game to share its viewpoint. Nevertheless, I found it fascinating how the title conveyed it, even if it wasn’t effective or “fun.” The obtuse puzzles juxtaposed with the free-answers letter system muddled the game’s intended message, and the low-quality graphics took away any remaining immersion. In the end, I feel like I came away with some insight, but I don’t know if it was worth playing this to gain it. Regardless, it’s a cheap game, so I wouldn’t stop you if you were curious what it’s like up North.

Score: 4/10

Note: A review copy was provided by the publisher for this article.

What are your thoughts on the game North? What are your favorite games with deep, underlying messages? What are your favorite “walking simulators?” Please share any thoughts or questions you have in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!


32 thoughts on “North (Switch) Review

  1. A bizarre adventure indeed! Great review of a weird game. When I heard this game was only 1 hour long, I thought it’d be a fun, light-hearted diversion to pass the time. Boy, was I wrong about that. It was creepy from the opening letter and only got stranger from there. I’d say it’s a psychological horror, but not to the extent of Doki Doki Literature Club. And it’s obvious that this game is making a statement about the struggles of refugees in a foreign land, but like you said, I don’t think this needed to be a game to convey that point. And the puzzles made no sense. You really can’t get through it without the hint letters or a guide. The graphics were rough and unpolished, but not in the nostalgic retro way. Overall, I could’ve that hour a better way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you as always for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts! Since you played it with me, I knew you had a lot to say! I’m sorry you sat through it with me, but I hope you at least won’t have nightmares from all the creepy imagery! Oh gosh, Doki Doki Literature Club hahaha. This game has a MUCH different tone. I appreciate the social commentary and think it would have worked better as a short film or short story. As a game, not so much. :/

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha good point!! Actually, I feel like this game’s social commentary would have worked better as a short film. I wouldn’t have minded seeing one with a Blade Runner set and the bizarre imagery!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ouch. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a compelling walking simulator, and this appears to be no exception. The problem with many of them is that they don’t benefit from being played. A lot of the time, I question why the creators didn’t simply decide to make a film when they’re not going to account for the player’s influence at all.

    It’s especially bad when a simplistic experience like this still has glitches; that’s sort of like making a basic machine with one moving part and it still doesn’t work. I remember playing The Beginner’s Guide and being dumbfounded when one segment made the game crash due to buffer overload.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I don’t mind the idea of walking simulators, since I’m a fan of point-and-click adventure games, but North just seemed pointless to play. I would have probably liked a movie version of this, just because it’s so weird and I like the social commentary theme, but having to mess around with obtuse puzzles, only to be told the answer by the game felt like a waste of time. Mind you, the game’s only an hour long too!

      The glitch was so frustrating since the developers made it a point that you can’t save your progress. Thankfully, where it glitched was only at the beginning, because I would have been so much more upset. It’s inexcusable when we are stripped of our ability to save! The Beginner’s Guide sounds like it would frustrate me if it’s like that…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To me, the walking simulator is evokes something similar to the Uncanny Valley effect in that I realize what I’m playing isn’t a game in the traditional sense, yet it expects just enough inputs that I feel like I am playing a game. When I reach that point, I wonder why the gameplay is nonexistent to the point where it’s distracting, which is exactly what a walking simulator shouldn’t be. With a visual novel, point-and-click adventure game, or any other title with a big emphasis on story, I can at least judge it by those standards, but they tend to benefit from being in that format unlike most walking simulators I’ve experienced.

        Yeah, I couldn’t recommend The Beginner’s Guide. It makes for a good conversation piece and that’s about it. It does save your progress, so there’s that.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. To North’s “credit,” there are interactive puzzles, but there might as well not be. I wanted to like games like Dear Esther and Gone Home, but the game portions felt unnecessary to tell its stories. I liked walking around the creepy house in Gone Home more than the story itself, so I think the horror genre is where walking sims can best shine. Otherwise, when auto-programmed narrations just play at certain parts, it feels like a wasted opportunity to either have a more fleshed-out story or game mechanics. I echo you on being distracted by the nonexistent gameplay. I haven’t yet played one where the story wowed me enough to not mind it either.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yeah, I think that’s how I would describe it as well; it feels like there are chunks of story without anything meaningful to connect them. Usually, that certain something is gameplay, but because walking simulators don’t have much to speak of, they just tend to drone on until they decide to end on their own accord. I did play and review Gone Home awhile back, and it and every walking simulator I’ve played so far all have that exact same problem. It’s heart is in the right place, but a plot like that having never been attempted in a game doesn’t make the first try a masterpiece by default.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course! Surprisingly enough, the plot really is just about the refugee being in the strange city to the North. He’s trying to seek asylum and has to do various tasks to do so. Like it really is just that haha. There isn’t much more to say because the whole plot is told through those letters, which act like a diary/strategy guide and wouldn’t make sense if you didn’t see what he was doing in the game. Hope that clarifies some things!


      1. You’re welcome! Yeah, it’s bare-bones. It’s a good “show, don’t tell” kind of experience in that it simulates what a refugee’s experience might be by actively confounding the player, but it isn’t necessarily that effective. Thanks for your comments! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Not sure if you checked out my review or not, but I also had a game breaking issue. The game allowed me to progress through the immigration office segment at the end despite only having 2 of 3 forms. I couldn’t interact with the typewriter in the final room and finish the game and sat there for 30 minutes trying to figure out what went wrong. Definitely a mess of a game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Holy! I need to check out your review! I’m so glad I’m not the only that has experienced this mess. That sounds horrible… 😦 That’s at the end too… My goodness. Did you have to restart? (since why should we have the ability to save progress in a game?)


      1. Yep, had to do the whole thing over again. Like you, I died a bunch in the mine wondering what I was even supposed to do. Everything is far too cryptic and breaking away to find a mailbox every few minutes was an awful mechanic. If it just popped up the letter it would have made for a smoother transition, but the game itself left a lot to be desired elsewhere.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The mailbox system is so bad. It’s like a mandatory “Super Guide” that you have to backtrack to get to. I like your idea of the letter popping up much more. I’m sorry you had to go through the whole thing over again, too… Ugh… How upsetting.


  4. Nice review! It’s really disappointing to see a short and simple game like this has glitches, and I think the developers should learn from their experience when creating this game. It looks nice, but I think they should create a more interesting and fun puzzles and challenges.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words! Yeah, it’s disappointing when glitches happen. I like the idea of what the game was going for. It just had a poor execution.


  5. Interesting… I like the idea of a non-linear, abstract, experimental game like this, even if the results are mixed. Still, I wouldn’t hate to more people try it, but with a greater focus on game play. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much man! You might like the horror and social commentary in North, but it’s not really the most fun game to play. A short film version of it might have worked better. I could see it being done!


  6. Hm, it does sound like an interesting experience, but it also looks like it would completely creep me out. I can play games that aren’t “fun,” so long as they’re intriguing/interesting. I’ll agree this does look interesting insofar as it’s attempting to get a point across, but it almost seems like the gaming medium (or the way it was done using such) might not be the best way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s super creepy. Even though it’s not a horror game, the imagery and psychedelic sequences can be frightening. North certainly unique, but as a game, it’s frustrating to experience, even as a “walking simulator.” I get what it’s trying to simulate, but I didn’t feel any payoff at the end after all I experienced. And I just think that all games should have saves and menus, no matter how short they are.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Exactly! Journey was a great cinematic game experience, whereas North is a puposefully frustrating experience in game form. And honestly, I wasn’t a fan of North’s bizarre artsy imagery. It was the same with when I played Dear Esther. I appreciated what it was going for, but it wasn’t fun, and its story didn’t compel me to walk around its digital island for hours.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t think I’d like North from everything I’m hearing. With Dear Esther, it was the monologues that really kept me involved. It’s some of the best writing I’ve ever heard in a video game. If it wasn’t for that and was just walking around a strange/creepy island, I”d have given it a hard pass!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I guess I just couldn’t get into the writing in Dear Esther. And no, you probably wouldn’t like North. That game’s writing isn’t really that great. Walking simulators that depend on the story are usually hit or miss depending on how the story is told and how the player responds to them. I didn’t like the story in Gone Home, another walking sim, but I liked exploring the house. It was actually kind of creepy and felt like a good use of interactivity in that type of game.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. There was one walking sim that I’ve heard is really good, but I can’t remember the title. It’s fairly recent and someone was comparing it to Virginia, which seems to have been an unfortunate miss. They’re really hard to make engaging especially when you consider most gamers are used to DOING something. There’s a good chance I liked Dear Esther because I just watched a Let’s Play of it. Walking sims have to balance out the desire to have interactivity with the question of whether the story wouldn’t function better in another visual medium. I think they want people to feel immersed, but if you don’t give enough to do or have an engaging enough story, that’s not going to happen anyway. There are games with more action that don’t accomplish that.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Hm maybe it was Firewatch?

        I think watching a walking sim is definitely a different experience even if it doesn’t seem like it. Playing through a walking sim feels like busy work as opposed to just watching a movie or playing something with more engrossing gameplay. That said, I do like the idea of walking sims as a fan of visual novels and point-and-clicks, but I haven’t played one that justified its choice of genre and left me satisfied.


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