I’m not going to put a score on Massira, I think that would be wrong.
Instead, I’m going to be open with the review and tell you from the off, you should try this game. Is it the best game? No. Is it the prettiest? No. Is it the most fun? No. Does it tell an incredibly important story that is key to the World’s current political drama? Yes. In fact, the subject matter that Massira covers is going to be looked back on in the future as a key event in the history of our world. That subject matter is the current Syrian War.
A conflict that has led to nearly half a million deaths and eleven million people being made homeless, a conflict that the majority of the World has turned their head, due to East/West tension. People may not know that I’m a High School teacher in Scotland. The Syrian War is a topic that I always choose to teach, I think it’s vital that pupils understand the plight people their age suffer purely because of where they were born. That’s why media like Massira is important. We need to share as many stories from Syria as possible.
Massira tells the story of a young girl and her grandmother who travel through the war torn country of Syria, eventually escaping and attempting to find safety in Europe. The emotional journey of the player and the characters are the important thing here rather than the major plot points. The imagery used is fantastic, situations like bombings or child labour that are totally commonplace in Syria are utilized in stirring fashion to draw the player into the world created. Massira will engage you from start to finish. You’d have to be heartless to not connect with the story. The art style really serves to enrich the story.
By using low poly assets, the world is given a surreal tone that almost makes it feel more grounded and less of a video game than other titles set in the Middle East, such as the Call of Duty series. The faceless characters all tell their own story. There is so much going on in Syria right now that the people are presented as faceless entities to the rest of the world. We only know the statistics, not the people behind them like Numi, Yara or Hamza Al-Khateeb. This is the true tragedy.
The gameplay? It’s fine. It isn’t egregiously bad, I’ve played and even enjoyed much worse games. There is some very simplistic platforming and some puzzles to solve, usually involving dragging objects to the correct location. The gameplay is very simple and there is no challenge whatsoever. The obvious intention is to keep the story moving at a pace that keeps the player engaged… And it works, if you come away from this game frustrated at the gameplay you didn’t get the game to be honest.
Massira is an important game. Too often in the West refugees are portrayed in a violent, evil invader style way. Everyone has their own story and it’s genuine privilege to experience Numi and Yaras. It’s equally powerful, somber, poetic and beautiful. The Middle East is an area where the biggest loser in the daily conflict is humanity and every day the rest of the World ignores the conflict, having their humanity also at risk. The fact that the gaming medium has the maturity to tell such a vital story should tell anyone how important the medium has become in 2019. Frost Monkey has crafted something that is accessible to all, meaning there is no barrier of entry for this crucial tale. Please, experience it.