Game: Tin Hearts
Genre: Puzzle, Platformer
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows & Linux) PS4 and Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Rogue Sun | Wired Productions
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US Everyone
Price: US $29.99 | UK £24.99 | EU € 29,99
Release Date: April 20th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Press Engine.
Full of Heart
Tin Hearts is a warm-hearted 3D puzzle game brimming with positivity. It originally perked my interest as it was created by developers who worked on the Fable series. Now a legacy game series I love for its unique British charm to the design of the world and characters. It feels like those warm feelings have passed onto Tin Hearts.
Originally I played the demo of Tin Hearts on PC and was impressed by how the developers created a VR title which could still be played without the expensive headwear. I was curious to see how such a title would perform on Switch. I’m pleased to report very well, but not only that, Tin Hearts is an experience brimming with a heart made of metal far more precious than tin.
Form an Orderly Line
Levels are set in large rooms such as a workshop or garden area with a Victorian design. The game plays in the first person perspective enabling you to navigate these areas to adjust small things in the environment. The goal of each level is to lead your soldiers to the exit. Initially, you don’t have direct control of the soldiers, so you must place blocks in the level angled in a certain direction to lead them.
The game breaks you in very gently with this mechanic having the blocks only fit into preset positions making this very appealing to casual gamers. Before you know it, the game does start taking the training wheels off, adding loose blocks which can be placed anywhere and a huge assortment of objects to interact with. This includes drums to bounce off, balloons to float in the air, and, as hinted, you even get to take more direct control of the soldiers later.
Things certainly get more complex the further you progress in the game. A lot of the joy of the experience here is experimenting with what works. If things don’t work out, mistakes are easily correctable. Some will compare this game to the famous Lemmings series. A retro classic where you needed to lead small lemmings with green hair and blue sweaters to an exit by assigning them tasks. Tin Hearts clearly sets itself comfortably apart from that series.
The general tone of the gameplay is calm and relaxing. This is not one designed to work you up with stress. It provided just the right amount of challenge that held my attention, compelling me to attempt the next puzzle. Additional mechanics include the ability to rewind or fast-forward the soldiers. This helps you easily correct mistakes, like soldiers taking a fatal fall, while also allowing you to quickly conclude a level when you know you have cracked the puzzle. You can pause the soldiers in place, and by doing this, you can observe the soldiers’ movement path with a faint glow. This helps you plan puzzles in advance, getting blocks and items positioned just right so they head in the precise direction needed.
A small niggle I had is some of these larger scale levels sometimes put you in a position where I could not lead every soldier to the exit door. An example of this is I spent ten minutes leading a few soldiers through a complex routine of puzzles. However, due to actions I had taken with items in the level, I could not lead the one soldier I accidentally left behind without a total restart. You don’t have to lead all the soldiers to the door to complete it, but some form of checkpoint system might have helped with these moments.
Another small niggle is the controls can sometimes feel a bit fiddly. Occasionally it’s hard to place the blocks in the exact position you want or point something in the right direction. I found this got easier the more I played the game. Mostly just a stumbling block at the start.
While you’re attempting to lead your soldiers to safety, there is a story hovering in the background. The plot follows an inventor, Albert J Butterworth and his family set in the Victorian era. As you make your way through, the game will sometimes project memories into the level, such as interactions between the family. There is this general warm-hearted feeling to the entire experience, filled with plenty of moments of emotion that will likely trigger feelings. It’s a premise that is family-friendly but will likely tickle the emotions of the parents more than the children. The children may enjoy the light heart feel of the toys and cute little soldiers themselves, which populate various locations both indoors and outdoors.
Simple Graphical Design
It’s a simple graphical design, but the rooms you enter feel lived in, with plenty of detail to explore. From books moved out of place to pictures on the wall signifying a happy family environment. It’s an excellent presentation made all the more warm and emotional with the soundtrack. Mostly piano numbers with some string melodies. It feels like something made from the Victorian era and hit me hard in the feels right from its first note. I was surprised at how good the game’s performance was on TV and handheld. Compared to the demo I played on PC, this runs exceptionally well on inferior hardware. If handheld is your preference, this is one of the best ways to enjoy this title outside of a Steam Deck.
Conclusion: Small Soldiers, Big Heart
Tin Hearts is really something quite special. Even the most hardened of gamers will struggle not to be moved by some aspect of the charm on display here. Whether it’s the heart-felt soundtrack, calm but satisfying gameplay or the emotional beats of the story.
Tin Hearts is the sort of title I love seeing in gaming. An original idea that is different from anything that comes before is made all the more memorable with its unique historical premise. The game is single-player only, but I can see this being a fun one to play together with loved ones on the sofa. Pointing at the screen to try to solve the problems together. Tin Hearts is a wonderful feel-good title which might be just what you need on a rainy day.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up