Review – Where Is My Heart?

Review Where Is My Heart
Where Is My Heart? aims for opposite goals compared to most games. While so many current gen titles try to woo us with fanfare, Where Is My Heart? takes a more quiet and contemplative approach. Perhaps not so surprising for a game that was inspired by the story of a real family lost in the woods and the way they fall apart when forced to rely on just their senses and each other.

We can only hope you fare better as you navigate this enchanted wood…


Review Where Is My Heart
Where Is My Heart? puts players in control of a family of three monsters. The inspiration for this scenario came from a real experience in the life of creator Bernie Schulenburg, when he went on a Sunday hike with his mother and father and saw the worst qualities of all parties come out. A bossy father, a depressed mother, and a regretful child made for a troubled trio, but Schulenburg’s takeaway was to make a game about it, in a “clumsy effort to understand his family,” as he calls it.

The forest you explore is brightly colored and beautiful, but it’s not just displayed on a single, plain screen. Instead, you will view each locale as a series of square segments. One of the unique points of the game is that nothing is quite where it appears to be; for instance, walking into one segment may find you in the next, but in a spot you would not have expected. This mechanic alone would make for some interesting puzzle-solving, but as soon as you get adjusted to it, the game will give you something new to deal with.

In each level, your goal is to lead all three characters to the tree at the end, something easier said than done. Changing control between the three monsters is easy enough, and at first all you seem to be doing is finding a block with a heart on it and activating it to fill in or remove heart blocks in each level.

These blocks need to be arranged to create pathways toward the tree at the end of each level, which sounds simple enough. Once you’ve mastered this however, the game introduces its key mechanic (and one that is sure to drive you crazy): special abilities for each family member. For instance, the orange female member of the family can transform into a winged creature called the Rainbow Spirit, and has the ability to rotate the panels of each level around and “hover” so that she can appear in any of them.

If you know the story about how the game came to be, one can’t help but see this mechanic as a metaphor for the confusion and emotional dissonance Schulenburg’s own family suffered during their exploration in the woods, attempting to convey that personal experience through the play mechanics.

From there on out it’s up to you to best figure out how to use the characters, their skills, and the placement of the board’s pieces to make your way. I can’t deny that Where Is My Heart? presents a decent level of difficulty at times, but if this thoughtful little platformer is anything, it’s innovative, taking a basic play mechanic and giving it an extraordinary twist.

Review Where Is My Heart
Where Is My Heart? is a Playstation Minis release, so you can load it onto your PSP or play it on your PS3. I preferred the latter, as the game’s later stages present increasingly complicated puzzles that seem easier to solve on a larger screen.

There are very few games that you can describe as elegantly executed enough to be like a love letter or a poem, but Where Is My Heart? is certainly one of them.

It trades action for contemplation, never setting a timer or rushing you through the levels in hopes of a slightly better score. The game wants you to think, and it wants you to take your time. It’s easy to get drawn in by the cute look of the game, but what it houses within is a much more complex experience — and one that feels no need to brag about the layers of depth it contains.


Developer
Die Gute Fabrik

Publisher
Die Gute Fabrik

System
PlayStation Minis (Digital Distribution PlayStation 3 / PlayStation Portable)

Modes
Singleplayer

Release Date
November 22, 2011

Price
$6.99

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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