By: David Cooper
Another day, another quirky puzzle-platformer. Where Is My Heart?, developed by Die Guute Fabrik, is a cute little PSN mini designed to make you go “aww.” But underneath its cute exterior lies a complicated puzzler that may baffle you more than you would think — looks can be deceiving.
The graphics are retro in a charming way, and the low-res sprites and backgrounds are a definite design choice, adding a sense of simplicity to this calming world. The laidback music adds to this, implying there is no pressure, only friendship between the characters and some light puzzling. Things never get stale, with a wide variety of environments for the levels, and the whole package is very relaxing visually.
As a platformer, Where Is My Heart? is nothing special. Controls are very basic, and require no level of mastery to progress through the game. This is suitable for the game though, as the focus is not on action but puzzles, and figuring out the entire level is more important than figuring out precise jumping and obstacles.
You play as three… creatures, which need to collect hearts and reach the exit. Switching freely between these amigos, you must make sure they work together to reach their goal. Sometimes that centers on climbing atop one another, sometimes one has to activate a block for the others, but most commonly puzzles are based around one of their specially activated abilities.
These abilities are vital to varying the gameplay, and discovering how to use them is half the fun. One has a fairly simple double-jump, one can unveil secret platforms and passages through the level and the other can re-arrange the level around them, allowing them to reach new areas.
The main thrust of the puzzling, however, is based around the layout of the level on the screen. While the levels themselves are fairly plain, they are rearranged into different blocks on screen and mixed up – imagine a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces in the wrong places. Moving around requires high levels of attention, unless you can picture the level linearly as a whole. Sometimes it is possible to piece the picture together in your head with background elements, such as a rainbow.
This becomes especially important during levels that utilize one character’s ability, as she can rotate these blocks around to her will while remaining in the same place on screen. It’s all like being in the Matrix, and figuring out puzzles based around this mechanic is very satisfying.
All in all, while initially these levels seem overly complex, in actuality there is a lot of balance in level design. Things may look like they can get fairly overwhelming, but rarely did I throw my arms up in frustrated despair. An appropriate level of challenge can make or break this kind of game, and Where Is My Heart? walks the line beautifully.
The game is not very long, but replay value comes from attempting to achieve a perfect score, collecting all the hearts and not dying. This is where the intense challenge comes in, and I doubt many will have the patience for it. What makes this all the more difficult is a lack of a stage select, a baffling choice considering how fun it would be to dip in and out of your favorite levels. A minor missed opportunity there.
In terms of story, I’m not sure what was going on. Constant obscure quotes and statements before levels implied heavily to me that there was something more than met the eye here, but whatever it was, it passed me by completely. This did not affect the gameplay, but my lack of understanding of these heavier themes made me think some might find this a little pretentious. Of course, your mileage may vary.
This is the only thing that did not sit well with me while playing though, and can absolutely be overlooked. There is more to like than dislike, and that makes it a success in my book.
Where Is My Heart? will charm and delight for its short time span, and it’s well worth a look. It may not change the playing field completely, but while it lasts there is nothing quite like it — that’s definitely a recommendation for one of the more unique puzzle games I’ve come across on the PSN.