Indie Focus: Where Is My Heart?

Where Is My Heart?, available on Playstation Network since 2011, but only making the jump to Steam today, is a puzzle platformer with a twist. The player takes control of three characters – Brown, Orange and Gray – as they attempt to return their tree’s hearts by travelling through a series of complex areas.

These hearts are split between 26 levels, which are in turn split into several, shuffled panels. The aim of the game is to traverse these levels by not relying on where panels seem to lead, and instead using a combination of the characters’ abilities and a little trial and error.

If the character reaches the goal unscathed and with all the hearts collected, they receive a mark for that level on the area select, proving it’s been fully completed. For areas where this proves too taxing, the option of simply taking all characters from A to B is rewarded with a green tick and unlocking the next area – though this is not always as easy as it looks.

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Each character has their own strength, though they can only activate it in certain levels, on their corresponding puzzle block. The most basic of these abilities is the double jump, but as the puzzles grows more complicated, other abilities become available, like revealing hidden areas, and shuffling panel positions by ninety degrees while remaining on the same point in the screen (frame hopping).

This latter power takes the puzzles dynamic to a new level of difficulty, giving the player more control over which panels lead where, while simultaneously restricting where each “hop” leads. It is a clever show of level design, where what could have originally be seen as a random shuffling of panels is in fact another aspect of the puzzle.

In both an effort to examine the game’s design, and to give my tired brain a rest, I tried abusing this power, wondering if it could be abused to skip certain puzzle elements. But, it looks to be a sound feature that only leads where the puzzle requires the player next, and punishes the user when they attempted to cheat (you’ll die if you fall into limbo between panels during a frame hop).

WIMH-AREAS

Level completion requires all characters to cross the final gate, meaning that the three characters must combine efforts to succeed. If one character has an advantage in a certain level, they must aid the other characters to the finishing line. At times, this feels tedious, but the satisfaction of completing each area perfectly is worth the teeth grinding.

Where Is My Heart? sets its puzzles over a sickly sweet art style. There are a few standard area styles, like cloudtops, ice caves and mushroom forests, and where characters are able to unlock their powers, they can take on different appearances. When the game begins, it feels a tad saccharine, with rainbows and dragonflies decorating each area, but as WIMH? goes on, levels show a hidden darkness behind their sugary exterior.

Each area has its own ambient soundtrack, reflecting the environment with sound effects that reflect key features, like waterfalls or insects, and setting the tone for the puzzle. In the darker environments, the music can feel unsettling, giving them a stark contrast to the bright, pink levels found earlier.

WIMH-ANCESTOR

By changing area styles and having them interact with the characters and their abilities, the game manages to stay fresh throughout. After the generic ‘save the tree’ introduction, these character/level interactions and small snippets of dialogue during loading sequences are the player’s only insight into how the characters relate to each other. This lack of exposition makes the characters and vague plot as much of a puzzle as the levels themselves.

Where Is My Heart? has a fairly short playtime. If you want to complete all the puzzles, it will take around 3 hours, 4 if you’re aiming for 100% completion. That being said, I found playing it for more than an hour at a time to be a gruelling experience. It’s nice to drop in and out of for shorter periods of time, but I would not recommend attempting to finish it in one sitting unless you have the patience of a saint.

The game plays well, but at times the restrictive nature of its panels can make the game feel more taxing than puzzling. Overall, WIMH? is a nice, new experience, but it’s not for everybody. If you like puzzle games, give it a shot; just make sure you have your puzzle hat on first.

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2 Comments

  1. I’ve had this game on my Vita for a while now and it’s really clever and has a great art style. I sort of gave up with it though after failing so many times on one particular level. I might revisit it soon.

  2. I bought it as a MINI and I really enjoyed it although I got stuck and left it about half way through, with the plan to return at somepoint. I can’t see the steam version offering any differences so I’ll not rebuy it but I give a full two thumbs up for recommending it to puzzle freaks – my brain was sore!

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