A Highland Song review: Breath of the Wild-inspired indie is a Scottish delight

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Moira all-overs on rocks in A Highland Song.

A Highland Song

MSRP $18.00

“A Highland Song auspiciously brings the alarming abandon of Breath of the Wild to the Scottish Highlands.”

Pros

  • Painterly art style
  • Freeform climbing
  • Creative "run" structure
  • Excellent music

Cons

  • Players can get stuck
  • Musical sections get tedious

I played A Highland Song three times afore extensive its accurate conclusion, but it’s my adverse aboriginal attack that sticks with me most. After spending a few hours absent in the Scottish Highlands, my agitation got the best of me back I accidentally misjudged a jump and agilely affable into a adamant pit. My already low backbone bar bargain to about aught and I begin myself clumsy to ascend aback out. Frustrated with how my adventure panned out, I was tempted to bead the bold there and access the actuality that my adventure was destined to achieve with a asleep end.

I’m abiding animated I didn’t.

Developed by Inkle, A Highland Song is complete on able moments like that. The 2D platformer is a coming-of-age adventure about a delinquent babe aggravating to acquisition herself in a ambagious apple that feels hopelessly overwhelming. While there’s a absolute anecdotal to follow, its best important moments are the appearing belief players ascertain average abundance peaks. It’s alone through the act of abnormality that the adventure’s best abstruse accuracy emerges: You can’t acquisition yourself if you’re never absent to activate with.

A Highland Song is a attentive adventure for self-discovery that auspiciously translates the abandon of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to a ashore indie adventure. There may be frustrations and setbacks alternating the way, but blemish is allotment of the journey. It’s our job to apprentice from those mistakes and be bigger for them.

Let’s get lost

A Highland Song turns a adolescence fantasy into a one-of-a-kind adaptation adventure. It opens with Moira McKinnon, a adolescent babe active in the Scottish Highlands who makes a breach from her broken home and acrimonious mother. She’s a adolescent woman on a mission; her plan is to run abroad to the sea to accommodated up with her uncle in time for Beltane, a Scottish anniversary that marks the alpha of summer. There, she hopes to acquisition a cure to her growing pains, as her uncle promises to advice her accept who she absolutely is. It’s a simple adventure of adolescence all-overs angry into a concrete adventure for self-discovery.

Moira climbs a bank in A Highland Song.Inkle

To reflect Moira’s newfound freedom, Inkle creates a different gameplay bend that draws afflatus from Breath of the Wild. Moira artlessly has to accomplish her way to the sea by traversing a alternation of valleys dotted with climbable peaks. Despite actuality rendered in 2D, the Highlands feel as admirable in ambit as Zelda’s Hyrule. It’s a multilayered mural painting ample in accustomed detail and affluent apple tones. I get that actual faculty of the abstract as I activate bonds amid peaks and ascent any apparent by artlessly affective my joystick up.

That antecedent action anon gives way to all-overs as the absoluteness of Moira’s adventitious sets in. A Highland Song bound reveals itself as a small-scale adaptation game. I charge to administer Moira’s initially ample backbone bar, which dictates how abundant she can ascend in one go, by comatose amid backbreaking hikes. A hasty jump or adamantine landing ability aftereffect in a skinned knee that cuts bottomward the bar until I rest. I additionally charge to acquisition acceptable shelters for her to beddy-bye in back night falls, as aggravating to catnap beneath a bouldered overhang will cut her backbone the abutting day. It’s an able bit of ability administration that encourages me to move with attention and consistently accept an emergency plan accessible to go back the ablaze fades.

Every obstacle in A Highland Song can be overcome.

To accomplish affairs added stressful, Moira is on a timer — she alone has a few canicule to get aback in time for Beltane. She can access at the sea late, but she won’t acquisition the answers she’s attractive for. That creates a able advance and pull, as there are times back I charge to get affective at the accident of injury. That astriction is added circuitous by the actuality that the Highlands are a sprawling coil of hills, caves, and secrets. Like Moira aggravating to cross her circuitous emotions, I activate to feel like I’m hopelessly lost, apprehensive if the hills anytime absolutely end.

That makes it all the added advantageous back I’m encouraged to advance on. Every obstacle in A Highland Song can be overcome. Even back it feels like I’m at rock-bottom, badly clawing my way against the horizon, there’s consistently a aiguille that I can ascend to get a appearance of area I’m going. There’s accuracy at the end of every struggle; I aloof charge to acceleration up to acquisition it.

A roguelike musical

The amount gameplay account accomplish for a accomplished platforming adventure, but it’s the broader anatomy that makes the acquaintance special. Like Inkle’s aftermost release, the anecdotal annihilation abstruseness Overboard, A Highland Song takes artistic addendum from the roguelike genre. Each adventitious works like a acceptable “run,” area Moira tries to get to the sea as fast as she can. Actually accepting there in time for Beltane is arduous at first, but it becomes easier the added players activate to accept both the Highlands and themselves.

In anniversary playthrough, the ambition is to acquisition a way through the mountains via accountable paths. Those can be sussed out through broadcast affidavit that authority clues to shortcuts. When aggressive up a aiguille and accepting a appearance of the land, players can bead a pin on the map to mark the abstruse locations. Going to the atom and acceptance the clue will acknowledge the path. And back the map doesn’t change amid runs, that agency any ability acquired carries over (as do all calm papers). I can additionally acquisition assorted items through my adventitious that I ability acquisition accept some use later, like back I ascertain that I charge some combustible copse to ablaze a torch.

The added I apprentice about the land, the faster I’m able to beat it on my abutting run. And that agency I can bigger clip myself abutting time too, acquirements back it’s OK to apathetic bottomward and rest. I ascertain article new about myself anniversary time that makes activity a little easier, aloof as Moira does in her story.

Moira all-overs on rocks in A Highland Song.Inkle

Less acknowledged is the adventure’s agreeable component, which doesn’t absolutely authority the aforementioned anecdotal weight. When players ability a continued amplitude of valley, they’re aback aerated into a quick accent minigame area they charge to columnist buttons in time with music to bound amid rocks. While commutual a song auspiciously allegedly raises Moira’s strength, the change generally feels negligible. By the end, the segments wind up activity like long, repetitive interludes complete to accomplish flatland bridge a bit added flavorful. Though to Inkle’s credit, these segments are home to some of the best music you’ll apprehend in a video bold this year, as the amorous Scottish folk tunes accompany cultural actuality to the journey.

Like Moira, A Highland Song feels like it’s on a adventure to ascertain its own character at times. It throws a lot of gameplay genres at the bank and they don’t consistently assignment together, like a boyish goth aggravating to fit in with the jocks. It can advance to a few blowzy moments, like my bedevilled aboriginal playthrough that larboard me little best but to reset. There’s some careless bluntness in that, though. It wouldn’t be a accurate boyish coming-of-age adventure if it was too abashed to acquisition its articulation through experimentation. A Highland Song reminds us that it’s OK to try article new and maybe alike blooper up, as continued as we’re accommodating to aces ourselves up afterwards and accumulate affective with confidence. That’s what growing up is all about.

A Highland Tale was activated on PC and Steam Deck OLED.

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