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August 2022

Tin Hearts

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Wired Productions
Developer: Rogue Sun
Release Date: 2022


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Switch/PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Tin Hearts'

by Cody Medellin on June 13, 2022 @ 10:00 a.m. PDT

Behind every brilliant invention hides an incredible story. Tin Hearts is an immersive puzzle game wrapped in a powerful tale of love and compromise.

When you hear that a new game is being developed by some of the people who worked on the Fable series, you expect it to either be an action game or an action-RPG. There's nothing wrong with doing something different, but the familiarity is a comfort zone. Tin Hearts doesn't fall into any of those genres, but it does provide some interesting gameplay elements of its own.

Tin Hearts is a puzzle game where the controls are slightly abstract. Playing as something more akin to a guiding spirit, your goal is to use the interactive pieces in the area to guide a parade of tin soldiers to the exit. You can tell the soldiers when to come out of their box, but they'll start automatically walking in a straight line when they appear. By placing blocks in their path, you can make them turn in one of four cardinal directions, ultimately making them enter the door that completes the level once the quota has been reached or at least one soldier makes it.

When you begin, you're limited to manipulating blocks that can only fit in pegs with the correct symbol on them. In time, you'll use blocks that are more freeform, so you can rotate them in any direction to create the path. As you progress through the levels, you'll use drums to make them bounce to another table, cannons to perform the same action, and balloons to help them reach higher elevations. Aside from getting the soldiers to the end of the level, you'll also guide at least one of them to a chest that unlocks a new ability, whether it's being able to reach for blocks from afar or skates so you can walk around the room to grab more stuff to solve puzzles.

In a way, the game is like a modern version of Lemmings or Krusty's Fun House but with a few changes to make it less frustrating for those who are learning about this type of game. First of all, your soldiers can't die. No one is going to be sent to a horrific doom because you placed an object in the wrong spot. The main reason your soldiers can't die is because you have the power to manipulate time; you can fast-forward, rewind, and pause time at your leisure while you are still setting things up. Rewinding time doesn't negate anything or call back any soldiers who have gone through the exit. Pausing also displays a visible path that the soldiers will travel, so you'll know whether the soldiers are heading where they should. It's easier because it eliminates the stress of doing everything in real time, so the game feels more accessible.

Another major change comes through with perspective, as you're looking at the field from the viewpoint of an adult, which is a three-fourths view. The wider viewpoint reinforces the idea that you're manipulating toys, and while it works well with both keyboard and mouse as well as a gamepad, it feels right at home in VR, where things "pop" more and the block manipulation feels more natural. For more visual pop, you can also lock your focus on a randomly chosen soldier as they go through the world. The flexibility goes a long way in making this game world exciting.

The gameplay is solid due to concessions that make the concept less frustrating, but the major mystery is in the narrative. Once you gain the ability to wander around the rooms, you'll unlock doors that lead to new chapters of the game. The new chapters also have story elements that are spirit memories that play out in front of you, depicting an inventor, his wife, and daughter. You sort of know where this is going thanks to other games' treatment of lovely families, and the trailer hints at something that'll either be sinister or sad. Still, we are curious to see if our predictions come true or if the story swerves into another lane.

Even though it's in alpha status, Tin Hearts looks to be a fascinating puzzle game. Thus far, the puzzles strike the right balance of brain teasing without veering into frustration, and the tools at your disposal are fun since only a few are restrictive. The inclusion of a story is an interesting touch, and we're interested to see how it plays out. The title is in an early state, so we can't wait to see how things go once it's more polished.

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