This PlayStation 4 exclusive from Frost Monkey Games follows in the footsteps of This War of Mine, Bury me, My Love, and the recent Drowning, tackling a sensitive matter in order to raise awareness. In this case, the plight of Syrian refugees as they risk their lives to cross the border. While the subject is unpleasantly bleak, Massira is an experience not quite as po-faced as you may imagine.
The story involves Numi and Yara, a young girl and her grandmother. After a bomb explodes near Numi’s school, she’s forced to begin the perilous journey from Syria to Germany. Each level is set in a different country – Austria, Macedonia, Lesbos, the Kara Tepe refugee camp, and everywhere between – and usually entails exploration, puzzle solving, platforming, and short stealth sections.
Just to prove that Massira isn’t without a spot of silliness, the platforming segments vary from leaping on giant springy mushrooms to tilting the PS4 controller to remain upright while walking across logs floating downstream. There are moving platforms, too – a classic videogame trope we didn’t expect to see in a game of this ilk. The same can be said for the spinning, hidden, collectables. Each of these is a unique item, referencing Eastern European culture. A nice touch.
For the most part, Massira is relatively straightforward. A typical stage involves helping somebody by finding a missing item, partaking in a mini-game (one stage has an on-foot race; another a ‘Simon’ style memory game), pickpocketing guards by approaching them stealthily, or solving a puzzle. The amount of variety is easily the most standout feature – it’s always a mystery as to what challenges lie ahead. The levels also vary in size, with the refugee camp being wide and open – even containing a few optional quests – and a stealthy prison stage being linear and more action orientated.