A Highland Song by inkle Ltd
The Scottish Highlands are beautiful enough to make a person believe in magic. Yet, these rolling hills don’t seem to get a lot of attention as settings for video games.
The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond
Moira McKinnon is a teenager on a mission. Her uncle Hamish has called her to his distant lighthouse, promising her a surprise if she can make it in time for Beltane (the Gaelic May Day). Against her mother’s wishes, Moira takes off across the Highlands, but whether she makes it in time is entirely up to you.
A Highland Song is an adventure game in the purest sense of the word. As you navigate Moira across 2D spaces by running, jumping, and climbing, the path forward is anything but linear. Almost every area has multiple exits to find (some of which require a map to locate), as well as hidden items that can unlock new interactions and secrets.
It’s a deceptively sprawling game for how simple its gameplay is, and you’re all but guaranteed to miss things on your first playthrough.
The other side to this is managing Moira’s health on her journey. Things like over-exerting her while climbing or getting caught out in bad weather (which dynamically changes) can cause her to need to rest.
However, resting uses up time, and you only have five days to reach the lighthouse, meaning time management is key, especially since Moira won’t travel at night.
While these mechanics may sound daunting, they’re very simple to manage, and the game is quick to assure you that making mistakes is part of the journey. They’re also accompanied by much more whimsical moments, which take the form of rhythm sections where you have Moira jump in time to music.
This is not a game that wants you to fret, but rather to enjoy the journey. There are even accessibility options to lower the difficulty of most aspects of the game for those who find it too much.
Wild Mountain Thyme
Backing up A Highland Song’s sense of adventure is inkle’s signature gorgeous production values. Between the visuals that look like classic Highland paintings, charming writing and voice acting, and a score by folk legends Talisk and Fourth Moon, it’s a genuine feast for the eyes and ears that immerses you in the game’s world for your entire journey.
The story itself is also wonderful, weaving in elements of Gaelic mythology amongst its love of history and its quippy teenage protagonist.
In terms of flaws, there’s really only one major one that hampers any of the game’s frankly fantastic adventuring: the controls for interacting with objects and climbing surfaces are sometimes a bit more fiddly than one would personally like, leading to the occasional frustrating moment where it feels like Moira’s doing anything but what you want her to do.
It’s also sometimes difficult to tell if a dead end you encounter in some areas is truly a dead end, or if you simply don’t have something you need to advance that way.
These quibbles aside, A Highland Song is another stellar, replayable adventure from inkle that lives up to its pedigree and then some. It can’t replace the majesty of seeing the hills of Scotland for yourself, but it’ll definitely have you singing songs about a bonnie lass by the time you’re done.
A Highland Song is available via the Nintendo Game Store and Steam.
Watch the trailer for A Highland Song below: