Released: 2017 (PC) and 2018 (PS4)

Format: PC, PS4 and XBoxOne

I love walking simulators but they have to have something to say or have something to experience. Without that, since the genre is typically minimal on gameplay, things can be a chore to complete or enjoy. It’s sad to say that North fits the description of unfulfilled potential and is marred by curious design decisions.

Screenshot of North PS4
North is on the whole, a game of shades of black

Firstly, the game starts off without a menu or any options. This wouldn’t be an issue if the game wasn’t so dark so often. You will be running into pitch black searching for doors to exit, or if you are a player that wants to invert controls – tough luck. Instead, you’ll have to waggle around your view in the hope that you’ve hit the door trigger command and keep your fingers crossed.

To compound these issues, North is essentially three corridors of rooms separated out by an elevator and you have to walk about to trigger some photo opportunities to then pass certain tests to gain immigration status to the titular North. Whilst the concept sounds great, the story is all but missing aside from the beginning text and end room “puzzle”. I say puzzle with speech marks as there really wasn’t any. The hardest part of the game was working out what order to do things in and with a lack of any context, story, UI help or understanding of what’s going on – the game gets boring very fast.

Screenshot of North PS4
I wished the imagery, story, concept and design went beyond barely functional – but it doesn’t.

Being boring isn’t the worst sin out there, but it is when your game can be completed easily in under 25 minutes. The opening text suggests the game will take an hour but if you get through the utterly out of place mine maze run easily, and work out that you can take photos (again, no context that it’s a game mechanic unless you happen to look in the right spot), then you’ll whiz right through.

It’s a shame as there’s one interesting scene in the entire game with creepy photos and footage playing on TV’s for you to decide what’s acceptable to pass the test. It shows there’s some thought in the game and its underlying message but it’s utterly lost in its bare bones execution.

Positives

  • Some interesting imagery for a couple of minutes

Negatives

  • Lack of graphical options means you’re trapped in a dark world of black
  • The interesting scenario is utterly wasted and untapped
  • Weird audio cues to signal success play at the wrong points and times
  • Over in under 30 minutes and yet it still felt padded

Conclusion

There are so many better examples of this genre that work well, engage you as a gamer and/or as an experience that I simply cannot recommend this. I hope someone else has a go at this kind of story concept though, as the premise is interesting.

View my video review below:

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