Tin Hearts Review
27 May, 2023
Check out our review of Tin Hearts to find out what we thought about puzzles involving guiding tin soldiers across charmingly messy rooms.
Tin Hearts hits all the points of whimsy you could ask for. Right out of the gate, we have a Victorian-era toy-maker with a happy family, lost in his own private world full of imagination and magic.
He’s fairly unbothered by the world, but the world comes barging into his life nonetheless, forcing him to make tough decisions and grapple with less-than-whimsical emotions.
Tin Hearts tasks you with taking a troop of tin soldiers as they emerge from their toy-box, and then guiding them all the way to the exit of the level. All that your toy soldiers can do is move straight forward in a line and turn only when they hit an oblique surface.
As the levels progress, toys like shape blocks, drums, and trains will all come together to become parts of your Rube Goldberg machines. After a certain point in the game, you can even directly control one of the tin soldiers and send him off on a solo mission to manipulate the environment and aid his more mechanically-bound comrades.
If all the soldier talk has you wary, be assured that there’s no combat in the game whatsoever. Your tin soldiers only ever march, making this a strictly peaceful and cozy puzzle adventure.
Cozy is a good word for the environments of Tin Hearts, which is mostly set in rooms with warm lighting and an abundance of scattered objects. This is a world that’s lived in, and you are very much a surprised guest who happens upon a beautifully untidy room to play in. It sparks a very particular kind of childhood joy that’s found in a lazy sunlit morning, where even a mundane mess is cause for adventure.
Tin Hearts gets so much right – from its cozy atmosphere to its heartfelt storytelling – that it’s almost a shame to explore where it falls short.
Your most frequent interaction in the game is placing triangular blocks in the way of your tin soldiers, but this is marred by the game not having a ‘snap’ functionality. Having to manually adjust the precise location of your blocks means that much of your time is spent on ensuring that your blocks aren’t one or two inches off the intended route. This is time one could have spent on devising routes and solutions.
A game like Tin Hearts encourages free-form camera movement, but in practice, the game’s camera zooms in onto a block when you pick it up – something I found not only distracting but also unwieldy to control. It feels less like picking up and placing a block, and more like piloting a quad-copter.
Issues like these make me grateful for the conveniences that the game does offer, such as time manipulation. The game lets you tweak the speed of time, making it faster when necessary, and it also allows you to rewind time – something you’ll be doing a lot when your tin soldiers fall off the edge of a table and break into pieces.
Minor conveniences and inconveniences aside, the game’s puzzles are a very satisfying take on Lemmings, as you incrementally tweak the environment to guide your tin soldiers all around the level. It’s a very comforting loop that’s easy to sink into and rewarding to pull off.
While I would not describe the puzzles of Tin Hearts as particularly hard, they do require a modicum of inventive thinking. When you hit the pause button, you’ll see the route the soldiers will be taking ahead. This allows you to take all the time in the world to experiment with changing the route.
One turn after another, moving forwards and backwards along the route, you’ll figure out the order of events to trigger, and mentally construct paths across the room you’re in.
It helps that there’s also a lot of puzzles to solve. Tin Hearts has seen short games and it certainly does not wish to be counted as one of them. Its fifty-plus count of levels is quite hefty when you consider that you’ll spend fifteen to thirty minutes on each level, sometimes even more than that.
All of this speaks in the game’s favor, and I was quite comfortable in granting the game a four-star rating, but I’ve had to take another star off to account for the game’s buggy state, which can bring your half-hour level progress to a standstill.
In more than one instance, tin soldiers froze at a particular spot on the route, something that not even rewinding or fast-forwarding could fix. Without guidance on what went wrong, I was forced to restart the level.
This break in flow seems to go quite against Tin Hearts’ gameplay philosophy, which is to continually tinker with a complex and invisible moving machine. The bugs, when taken together with the clumsy controls and the awkward platforming sequences, result in a very subpar experience for what is a very solid puzzle game underneath.
Whether you will enjoy Tin Hearts comes down to how much you can stomach the janky gameplay, or well, whether the developers can fix the game’s bugs post-release. There really is a wonderful puzzle game here, one that I came close to recommending unconditionally, but as it stands, Tin Hearts demands more patience from the player than it ought to.
Tin Hearts presents the magic of childhood toys and the steady, satisfying fun of tinkering with a complex system, but its imprecise interactions and game-stopping bugs make it a game I can only recommend with a big asterisk for now.
Developer: Rogue Sun
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Publisher: Wired Productions
Release Date: April 20, 2023 (Switch); May 16, 2023 (PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S), Coming Soon (PC VR, PSVR2, Meta Quest 2)
This review of Tin Hearts is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher. The flat screen, PC version of Tin Hearts was played for this review.
Thank you for reading our review of Tin Hearts! Already playing the game? Be sure to check out our walkthrough of the game!
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