A Highland Song (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 05.12.2023

Review for A Highland Song on Nintendo Switch

Ah Scotland, the land of rolling hills, lovely people, haggis and veritable downpours. With rich history and folklore alongside its penchant for music and tall tales, it's a vast bastion of game content. Enter A Highland Song, a game taking the wilderness of Scotland and making it into something quite unique. Developer Inkle Ltd, based in Cambridge, has a small number of interesting titles under its belt, all of which have been quite drastically different from the last. Will this latest adventure take them on the high road?

Moira runs away from home to visit her uncle, Hamish, after he sent a letter that asks her to be at his lighthouse within a week. The story here is an interesting one told both from the perspective of Moira, who tends to voice her opinions and thoughts on what is unfolding, and from the perspective of the ones telling her stories that she recalls. The narrative is easy to follow and manages to portray a general sense of presence that is befitting of the game itself. This narrative is found through interactions with people and places that Moira meets and finds along the way, weaving intrigue, myth and life together in a way that is genuinely interesting to experience. Now, A Highland Song is voiced by a Scottish cast, something both relieving to hear and rife with common Scottish accent faux-pas. Many of the dialogue moments of the game rely on interjecting Scottish words like "Weans", "Gonnae", "bin" etc… Some of which may go over players' heads if they "dinnae ken whit it aw means". Another side effect is that there is an almost awkwardness to the voice acting, however it is mostly great.

Screenshot for A Highland Song on Nintendo Switch

The gameplay has a few little systems that come together into one cohesive game. Obviously, level design is a little odd here as it's trying to mimic the feeling of exploring the hills and coastlines of Scotland so it errs more towards naturalistic spaces than levels. However, a large part of the game is rhythm traversal. Whenever Moira encounters a deer she can run with it which prompts a brief stint of slow motion. If the player then activates a sprint, this turns into a rhythm action segment. During these the player has to react to timed button prompts with various button presses. It is ultimately quite simple to interact with; don't expect Hatsune Miku levels of complexity. The music is a Scottish folk affair with great rhythms, however it does feel like the game doesn't always match the beat of a song, instead working on its own timing. If playing in TV mode the player gets to play a tiny rhythm setup screen where they press 'X' in time with the beat to set the latency which is great, especially if the sound of the player's setup is minorly delayed.

Screenshot for A Highland Song on Nintendo Switch

The majority of the time, though, players will be traversing the hills of the highlands (which are fictionalised of course) and it can be quite cool and the lovely painterly vistas and scenery really look amazing. Moira is also animated fantastically along with other incidental characters she encounters on her journey. Finding pathways usually involves climbing a high peak and then using the maps and doodles that Moira finds while exploring to plot paths across the hills. All of this takes place on a 2D plane but players often traverse between different layered hills and can even pick differing paths by moving down or up when paths overlap. There are tons of things to take care of while running through the hills but mainly the player needs to keep an eye on Moira's energy. This drains when running or climbing or simply making a mistake and falling. To recover this, she needs to rest at a rest point, which is usually a cave entrance or sheltered area. These are also used to shelter from storms which make traversal harder and drain much more energy as well as reducing the temperature which makes Moira less resilient.

The only problem players may encounter is that the game does struggle on occasion, although there is intrigue and interest all supplanted in a beautiful whimsical yet based-in-reality environment. When it's good it's great but when it slows down or the player encounters multiple dead ends it can suffer from a slight sense of tedium, especially with the time limit hovering over everything. It's by no means a game-breaker but it is a purposeful implementation of difficulty that sometimes tarnishes the good feels. This, coupled with managing temperature and avoiding storms, really makes the player feel the scale of the adventure and the challenges Moira is facing. As noted previously, the game has a beautiful art direction and when everything is flowing, or during one of the funnier incidental moments, it really feels special. For example, helping an injured crow could lead to a whole secret area which will never not be endearing.

Screenshot for A Highland Song on Nintendo Switch

The level design aims for naturalistic which does mean sometimes it isn't obvious where to go next, or if a path is something the player can use or is just a bit of scenery. However, this is resolved by the multitude of maps the player can find and use to mark waypoints in the distance. This waypoint system keeps the gameplay pace from grinding to a halt at most times and keeps a constantly shifting goalpost to aim for.

The Scottish theming and visual design is excellent and the artistry of the locales feels bang-on at times. From castles to creatures, there is so much to find and experience, all of which is beautifully hand-drawn and flowingly animated. Things like the way water reflects or the way Moira shivers on a cold night just help immerse the player in this little journey. The user interface of the game is also tailored to the other visuals with nice fonts, stylised maps and a whole host of little sparkles that indicate interactive elements. The atmospheric music and voice work is great at setting the scene for the adventure and is subdued enough that when something exciting happens or a jingle plays, it stands out, making the moment evermore rewarding and obvious.

Screenshot for A Highland Song on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Exploring the mountains of the Scottish highlands and having bizarre encounters are at the heart of A Highland Song, packaging up everything into a cute side scroller with rhythm action and fun dialogue that feels very unique. Not only is the game a love letter to Scotland, it feels like a very personal project full of talented individuals and while the game has occasional slow moments it is overall a lot of fun. If an atmospheric adventure featuring a wee Scottish lassie is on yer cards then this comes highl(and)y recommended.






2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   


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