Guide Your Small Soldiers in Tin Hearts

Tin Hearts Preview

If you are looking for a new puzzle to confound you, Tin Hearts has a unique appeal. There’s an air of mystery to the proceedings. It’s a slow, deliberate puzzle game, but it’s also like nothing you’ve ever seen. It’s also a game that proudly picks up the mantle of a series that hasn’t truly seen a new entry for over 20 years. And what are Tin Hearts anyway? Let’s get into it!

Lemmings in a Toy Chest

Tin Hearts is like a mashup of Pinocchio and Lemmings. If you are too young to remember Lemmings, it’s a little like this: you must place objects and give orders to a group of little guys who keep walking no matter what. They’ll bounce off a wall, or each other. They will walk right off the edge into the abyss. And it’s your job as an omniscient player to herd your lemmings safely to the exit.

In Tin Hearts you’re pretty much doing the same thing. You have a bunch of mindless automatons. You need to get them to march to the exit. But in this game you aren’t managing cute little cartoon animals, you are dealing with a box of tin soldiers. The theme of the game is “toys.” The tin soldiers come out of a little toy chest. They march across a table. You guide them by placing little blocks, barriers to guide their way to safety.

Master of Puppets

You also are an embodied character in Tin Hearts, or maybe you’re disembodied. My point is, in most strategy games you are an abstract eye in the sky, giving orders but never existing in the game’s world. In Tin Hearts, you are some kind of ghost. Every so often you will see your character’s hands, immersing you in the toy shop setting. When you solve a puzzle, your ghost hands accumulate ghost energy, which I guess is a good thing? Cursed, trapped in a toy shop, and pulling the strings of your toys to make them do what you want feels an awful lot like a Geppetto roleplaying game.

But let’s talk puzzles! After all, if you’re interested in Tin Hearts, you probably like to get your brain twisted. In that department at least, Tin Hearts is pretty unimpeachable. After an introductory set of levels, the game does not waste time in ratcheting up the difficulty. And that’s a good thing! Before long, your soldiers will be bouncing and careening around whole rooms, tumbling into contraptions of your own invention. You know the old saying: easy to learn, hard to master.

Teetering Tower

That being said, there are still some rough patches. The graphics, while serviceable, look like they are from fifteen years ago. Some might find that charming, but I don’t think it quite works. Maybe a more cartoony style would work better. The textures, the polygon count, the particle effects, something feels a little bit off. By no means an ugly game, Tin Hearts’ graphics lack the whimsy of its premise.

Whether or not you enjoy the visual style has little impact on solving puzzles. The controls are a bigger cause of concern. I see the rationale behind the choices, but it wasn’t long before I was smashing my head into my keyboard. The controls are meant to enhance immersion. You don’t just click the block you want to place to pick it up, and again to put it down. You have to click and drag, lifting the block off the shelf or the pile, then maneuver and rotate before dropping it down. Sometimes the blocks are pulled towards the placement spot. Sometimes you overshoot and need to pick up the block again. A lot of time is spent hovering over the spots, trying to find the invisible point in the air that will get the object where you need it to go.

Of course, in modern gaming, no problem has to last forever. Classic games are being remade with sophisticated textures. Controls can be refined and iterated upon. The most important thing for Tin Hearts to get right are the puzzles, and it certainly performs well on that front. I’d love to master one of its levels on my Switch while on a commute. If you can look past the chunky graphics and the floaty controls, Tin Hearts will baffle and amaze you.

***PC code provided by the developers for Review***