Many are those who wish to visit North Korea, few are those who receive a visa to get there. And those who do will definitely not be allowed to drive themselves through the streets of Pyongyang. But now you have the option of doing exactly that right in the comfort of your home, wherever you happen to live.
As a sort of Christmas present to all its past and future customers, Koryo Tours commissioned a DPRK gaming company to develop a racing game that lets you drive around Pyongyang all by yourself in a locally made Pyonghwa Motors vehicle. CanKor Brain Trust member Hannah Barraclough of Koryo Tours explains that this is meant to be “a bit of retro fun” as a “free gift from Koryo Tours”.
The computer game, called the “Koryo Tours Pyongyang Racer”, lets you drive past genuine sites in North Korea’s capital city: the triumphal arch, the Juche tower, the skating rink, the pyramid-shaped Ryugyong Hotel and much more. You collect fuel along the way, and try not to crash into any of the local cars, or the DHL vans!
A pleasant feature for those who have visited or lived there, the game includes Pyongyang’s famed pretty traffic ladies. They give advice, warn you about infractions, or even express an opinion about your terrible driving skills. And they will remind you to keep your eyes on the road, not on them. “Drive straight on. Don’t stare at me, I’m on duty,” scolds one of them.
It is a race, of course, so you compete for a good race time! But if you’re looking to see how you fared against other drivers, you’ll need to manually take a screenshot of your completion time and email it to Koryo Tours.
“The game has an old school feel,” says Barraclough, who is aware that this game is not meant to compete with far more sophisticated gaming standards. The code is written in the style of the 32-bit console era. But, says the Koryo Tours cultural projects manager, “it offers a challenge for all the family. We hope you enjoy it and do let us know how you get along!”
Of course, the major attraction in the game are the Pyongyang landmarks, and these are rendered with surprising accuracy. The North Korean company Nosotek, which made the video game, was founded in 2007 by German expatriate and entrepreneur Volker Eloesser. It has previously produced phone games for Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp, including “Men in Black: Alien Assault” and “Big Lebowski Bowling.” Its tagline is “IT Outsourcing Redefined,” and apparently it wants Western companies to outsource software work to North Korea.
This unique game is currently online exclusively on Koryo Tours’ website: Play Pyongyang Racer here
Although the game was announced only on 19th December, the game has been accessed so much that it is difficult to get online at Koryo Tours. Once you do manage to get through, the game may take some time to load properly. Patience is strongly recommended!
If you fail to connect, but would still like to see what the game looks like, there are several screenshot videos available on Youtube. Here is one of them: Watch a bad driver do the Pyongyang race course!