Here’s a problem: the more I show and tell you about North [official site], the less you’ll get to discover yourself – and North is very much a game about being lost, confused, and surprised. It’s a game starring an asylum seeker in a surreal city, see, and being confounded by local behaviour and bureaucracy. So I’ll skirt around it: North has one of finest alien cities I’ve visited in video games, ever surprising and unsettling, and I greatly enjoyed discovering it. It’s free, so just go nab it and don’t read this, yeah?
Fine, I’ll explain a little more. Playing as a refugee from South, we enter North with no status and no rights, living in a dreadful hole of an apartment, trying to figure things out. It’s… a free-roaming first-person adventure game, maybe? There are several tasks which we must complete, though at first we’re not told what they are or what to do. We’re turned out into a dark city and left to figure it out.
The first task, for example, is simply to prove that we’re able to work, though it seems less simple as we walk past dozens of graves and a thrashing creature then stumble into a deathly heat. After that, we crash into layers of bureaucracy, surveillance, religion, and… it’s a flipping weird place, yeah?
North’s city is maybe how I’d imagine the home of Under the Skin‘s aliens. Or it’s a hellish Bernband. Towering dark skyscrapers. Abstract geometry. Black stone. Dark waters. Exotic rugs. Ruined apartments. Silent figures. Oozing figures. Queues. Machinery. Graves. A surprisingly nice elevator. Parts are just familiar enough to make it all truly unpleasant. It is an excellent place.
I would like to talk more about strange and sinister places and events which fuel all this, but it’s better if I shush and you go play.
Also, it has (mostly) ace unearthly sound and music.
North is pay-what-you-want, with no minimum, for Windows on Itch. Developers Outlands are also behind the creepy adventure game Breeders and the sinister torture of Dämmerung – which was about tearing confessions out suspected infiltrators from a place named North, now that I think about it. They are good at sinister.
It is a bit trial-and-error, but letters we send to our sister do give solutions away after failing once if you need a little help. And, as I’m griping, it’s a shame that the music and sound cues for accomplishing tasks is so uncharacteristically cheery. But it’s ace, and I’m very glad to have played it. (One tip: an elevator is behind the starting point. Took me ages to notice that in the shadows.)
North actually came out in February, but I only spotted it today amongst the A MAZE. festival’s award nominees. Thanks, A MAZE! And now I’ve noticed that Brendan posted about it last month but THAT’S JUST HOW IT GOES. He’s posted games I’d already posted too. It’s fine if we both like it. That’s only double proof that you should try North.
If you dig North and fancy dread, loneliness, alienation, vast sinister places, or ace sound, for further playing I’d recommend Connor Sherlock‘s walking simulators and Porpentine’s With Those We Love Alive. I kept being reminded of those. Your further viewing is Under the Skin.