Rogue Sun, former members of Lionheads Studios who gave us the critically acclaimed Fable series, bring us in a new adventure made of little heroes. Tin Hearts is a 3D puzzle game with strong references to Lemmings gameplay. As a deus ex machina we will guide the little toy soldiers to the goal safe and sound.
Tin Hearts is a bittersweet 3D puzzle game. The story of a family, told through 51 levels that will test our logic. The game will bring us into a strange and magical world, made of wonderful toys that will make us laugh, cry and empathize with the characters. First of all, an honorable mention to the game developers.
Rogue Sun was founded in 2016 by Kostas, Jon and Ian. The founders first met while working on the multimillion selling Fable franchise at the historic Lionhead Studios. The founders have upwards of 50 years combined industry experience and are joined by an equally battle hardened team of developers from companies like Sony, EA, Kuju and Microsoft.
Now we can talk about this adventure, the story and the gameplay of this little gem.
A Lovely Family
The main characters of our story are the Butterworths. A family of three consisting of Albert, Helen and Rose.
Albert is a visionary artist, a genius inventor and toymaker. Even from a very young age, Albert showed a natural inclination towards crafting and inventing, and after meeting Helen, a talented musician, this boosted his ability.
Helen is a talented musician, who is beautiful in the truest sense of the word. A kindred spirit to Albert, she is his partner, best friend, and muse. Helen is brimming with life and has a musical talent that equates to Albert’s Toy making abilities.
Rose is the daughter of Albert and Helen. She is everything one would expect of the child of a kind and talented musician, and a genius inventor. Rose encompasses her fathers curiosity and not so secret love of playfulness combined with her mothers affectionate and caring heart.
All the story takes place in the Butterworths’ house. Going forwards with the game levels, we’ll discover the whole house and the truth.
The House of Toys
In the prologue we see a little spark and right after we play as a translucent entity with the power to possess objects. With this ability we possess a tin soldier that starts to walk towards a little door. Subsequently we will acquire basic skills by opening boxes using toy soldiers as keys. Right after we discover that the translucent figure is actually Albert. Guiding the soldiers through the door will bring forth the spark that will guide us to the next room door.
Done the prologue, the first act starts: The Attic. This is Albert’s laboratory, full of tools, prototypes, projects, books and family photos. Here Albert works and there is a covered thing on top of a table. This is a present for her daughter Rose, a dollhouse in the shape of their home.
The attic is made up of numerous rooms. We will have to lead the toy soldiers through the door to be able to access the next one.
The second act is The House. We discover that Butterworths’ house is a charming villa built on two floors. Here we will visit all the rooms and even the beautiful garden. Every place will tell us about the characters, letting us know their personalities, dreams and hopes. In this act comes the turning point, until we go down to the third act: The Basement. Here the setting changes critically. Suddenly we are in a Victorian steampunk environment. The game changed his mood, but I don’t want to talk too much to avoid spoilers and to not spoil the experience.
For the record, the name of the fourth act is redemption: I won’t write anything about it, just play it. Last but not least is Albert’s private office. A safe place where we can come back whenever we want and check our progress. As we will complete the levels the look of the room will change and will be enriched with new objects.
Deus Ex Machina
The first thing that catches the eye in the gameplay is the strong inspiration of the basic mechanics taken from Lemmings. Like the little creatures the toy soldiers can only walk forward unaware of the dangers around them. On the other hand the player must build a path to take them to their destination.
We can literally flow through the room, look around and find clues to solve puzzles. During the story and even in the last levels, Albert will learn new skills and abilities thanks to what he will find in small boxes. Let’s talk about these skills: first of all the time stop skill.
An useful skill that helps the player to take his time to think and find a solution. With this skill you can stop soldiers’ movement, preventing them from falling and occurring in other dangers. You can also see the soldiers’ future path, so you can understand if you choose the right move.
Manipulating time is a core skill, the player can rewind and fast forward time. Players can accelerate time to reach the final destination or rewind it if something went wrong. The rewind feature is a great help especially when we are faced with bugs, clipping problems and polygon physics problems. These problems are infrequent, but if they happen at the wrong time they can be really frustrating.
Each room in Tin Hearts is filled with colorful Rube Goldberg like machines. A Rube Goldberg machine, named after American cartoonist Rube Goldberg, is a chain reaction–type machine or contraption intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overly complicated way. Usually, these machines consist of a series of simple unrelated devices. The action of each triggers the initiation of the next, eventually resulting in achieving a stated goal. Who is old enough to have played The Incredible Machine (Sierra Entertainment, 1992), surely will feel at home. You’ll use toy drums to bounce them to safety, cannons to create makeshift bridges, trains to forge new trails.
Progressing throughout the game unlocks the unique powers to control each machine. Besides wooden toy inventions there will be steampunk machinery that will increase the complexity of the levels.
Invention and object creating new and imaginative ways to help your soldiers reach their destination.
A True Hero
Beyond the complexity of the level design and the ability to manipulate objects, tools and time, Tin Hearts gives us another feature. During the journey we will find a tiny house with Middle Eastern features. Here Gertrude, a doll created by Albert for Rose, will take one of the toy soldiers with her.
With this gesture she will allow us to take control of the toy soldier, literally transforming the adventure into a puzzle platformer. We can move the toy soldier across the rooms, adding even more complexity to the game design.
I must admit that the controls are not very precise and we could find ourselves passing through some surfaces and falling disastrously. Fortunately the rewind feature allows us to retry and limits frustration.
My Two Cents
Tin Hearts is an immersive puzzle adventure game wrapped in a powerful tale of love and compromise. The graphic style helps the player immerse himself in the adventure.
The musical compositions are excellent. As elegant as the choice of instruments such as vibraphones, woodwinds, reeds, keyboards and strings. All dosed with compositional intelligence and a sweetness, music manages to paint a sound picture suitable for every moment and every mood. Besides, it also knows when silence is the best choice.
The gameplay is extremely articulated and complex, and the courses are really challenging too. Sometimes we will replay the same room but with a totally new path than before. Really smart idea. I honestly expected nothing less from the former members of Lionhead Studios.
Rarely I found myself stuck for things the game took for granted but didn’t explain.
I can’t deny that some bugs, camera angle issues and some filth can ruin the experience for a player. Especially if not used to the genre.
I recommend only to persist and live this experience. A poetic, strong and credible story, where feelings have different and non-stereotyped nuances.
Tin Hearts will be released on may 16 on Steam, PS 5 and 4,Xbox series XS.
- Good and immersive graphic
- Marvellous sound compositions
- Extremely articulated level design
- Heart touching story
- Camera angle issues
- Some bugs during platforming phases
- Some objects physics issues