Game: Kind Heart Defenders
Genre: Action, Arcade
System: Steam (Windows & macOS)
Developer|Publisher: LUDO Thinking
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £1.69 | US $1.99 | EU € 1,99
Release Date: December 21st, 2022
Review code provided with many thanks to LUDO Thinking.
Kill With Kindness
Kind Heart Defenders is a top-down space shooter which mixes in tower defence mechanics. The game’s design template intrigued me with its original concept and heartwarming presentation. But after spending some time with the game, I was slightly disappointed.
Playing as a Kind Hearted Pilot, your job is to defend the crystal heart from the enemy invaders. These forces represent emotions such as Fear, Sadness and Rage. When you begin a level, you’ll share a little text banter between your pilot and the baddie. This exchange is quite charming, with your character attempting to defeat them literally with kindness by offering cuddles or cake as opposed to vengeful violence.
You may still defeat enemies with lasers like a typical space shooter, but when you do, the enemies explode into a charming display of colourful confetti which only adds to the game’s warm charm. The graphics are pretty straightforward, yet it just oozes positivity. To add to this, you have a pleasant cosmic soundtrack which soothes the soul while you defend your heart. A feature I really liked is if you try to exit the game, your offered cake to stay, which is very cute.
Tower Defense and Space Shooter
The goal of each of the game’s ten levels is to defeat the waves of enemies, and sometimes an ending boss, whilst defending the crystal heart positioned in a set location on the level. If the heart or your ship is destroyed, it is game over, and you need to restart from the beginning. Before the level starts, you can pick from four colourful spaceships. Each with its own perks, like increased damage or fire rate.
Controls are quite simple; your ship will automatically fire forward, so you only need to focus on movement to avoid enemy fire. When you fire on enemies, you will score build points. With enough of these, you can then lay defences on designated locations on the level. When you do this, the game will pause, allowing you some breathing space to choose.
Four defences are available, although, for some reason, the game doesn’t actually tell you what any of these do despite offering a tutorial. After some light experimentation, I discovered the purpose of each with one firing straight shots, another a sort of homing shot and a pulsing star which seems to damage enemies that move into its range. Each of these structures can be upgraded multiple times, but you can’t remove them once placed. The enemy can’t even destroy the structures themselves.
My biggest niggle was how grindy the gameplay felt. In the main menu, you can upgrade various abilities like your ship’s weapon and health. You can also unlock new power-ups to randomly find in a level, such as a shield to repel enemy shots and a laser to deliver concentrated damage right in front of your ship. During levels, you collect heart coins which can then be spent on upgrades. So I did this between levels, raising my weapon and health a few bars. But when I replayed a level, I noticed no difference in my ship’s abilities.
I later found out you have to upgrade the bar several points before it changes colour and then actually upgrades the designated ability. By this point, I was near to finishing the game. It then dawned on me that upgrading everything else in the game would take quite the slog, which is an undertaking I just wasn’t keen to do. Probably because the formula for the levels felt formulaic and slow.
Once you have learned each map and mastered it. There wasn’t much drive to return to replay, at least for me. Kind Heart Defenders feels like it would have better served just doing away with the upgrade system and focusing on level design. A pick-up-and-play arcade formula, maybe even with randomly generated levels, may have been a better fit for this one.
As for content, the game has ten levels in total. Five of which contain boss fights at the end. Each level contains numerous challenges, such as finishing the level without laying defences or avoiding taking too much damage. It’s impossible to complete all challenges on a single try, so you must replay to obtain all the stars. You don’t have to complete these to progress though, just complete the level. The game has three difficulty modes. You have to start from the bottom finishing the level on easy first before unlocking the next mode.
Conclusion – A Good Heart
Kind Heart Defenders has the template for a high-score chasing arcade game. But with an upgrade system that requires excessive amounts of grinding, it becomes more of a bore than something that feels pick up and cuddle. Gaming time is pretty precious to me, so when I play a game, I want to feel a sense of enjoyment with each run. I don’t want to be too harsh on this title since I admire what’s been attempted with the mix of tower defence and space shooter. If you do have the time to spare and grinding is not a problem you may find some enjoyment here. I admire what the developers have attempted and do wish them well in future projects. Kind Heart Defenders has its heart in the right place but is not very kind about the player’s time.
Final Verdict: I Don’t Know