Tin Hearts Review
Back in March I got to sink my teeth into the first little bit of Tin Hearts by Rogue Sun. I originally played on the PC and found it delightfully magical and whimsical. Now, I’ve gotten a chance to play through the entire game on PS5. Tin Hearts is everything I expected it to be and more. There’s a couple more twists and turns I wasn’t quite ready for and the puzzles increase in difficulty and complexity as the narrative continues on. What I originally thought was magical and whimsy in a bottle is actually a heart wrenching story about a toy maker and his family told through these tiny soldiers.
Tin Hearts is a puzzle adventure game that offers both third-person and first-person views. The puzzles are wrapped in a thoughtful narrative that focuses on the relationship between toy maker Albert J. Butterworth and his family over the course of many years. I don’t want to spoil much here but it’s a story that delves deeper than you might think at first. It’s about love, loss and the art of toy making. Both during and after certain puzzles Albert, his wife Helen, and their daughter Rose will appear as memories and re-enact heartfelt scenes from their life. One of my favorite moments is when you discover that the music from the beginning of the game comes from Helen. I thought this was a wonderful touch that really brings the other elements of Tin Hearts together with the narrative.
What Goes Around…
Besides this little musical moment Rogue Sun really does a wonderful job bringing the story full circle and ending it all with a neat little bow. All the questions I had while playing through the first act are answered by the end of Act 4. It will take approximately 5 to 10 hours to complete, depending on how difficult or time consuming you find each level. The narrative is definitely worth sticking around for and while I really enjoyed discovering how to complete the puzzles as they increased in complexity, I also got lost in the story.
The premise of the puzzles is straightforward: maneuver the tiny tin soldiers from their box to a little red door. The prologue and first couple of levels of Act 1 introduce you both to the characters and the controls. You begin with blocks that have four specific peg shapes. These blocks can be shifted to ensure the soldiers are going in the right direction but they can only be placed where these pegs exist. As you progress you’ll be able to use blocks which can be placed anywhere. You’ll also learn other abilities.
These abilities start off simple, like being able to control toy trains. Like the levels themselves the abilities become more complex and soon you’re able to set off toy cannons, master hot air balloon baskets and manipulate time. Being able to freeze or rewind time helps if you’ve made a dire mistake and it allows more time to strategize. While time is frozen you’ll also be able to see the soldier’s path as well. This is a huge game changer. Well, that and when you’re finally able to move around freely as your very own tin soldier.
This is where the platforming part of Tin Hearts comes in. It adds a completely new element to the game. As you progress through the levels and the puzzles become more complicated, these abilities aren’t just helpful, they’re necessary. The environments expand from a single table to a whole room to an entire floor of the house. And with these expansions come different dangers and obstacles for the soldiers. The puzzles are built around these environments in a way that feels very organic. The levels become much less straightforward and require your very best strategy to complete them. The real achievement here is that the puzzles find the perfect sweet spot; being not too challenging nor too easy.
Some Darn Good Puzzles
Unfortunately the gameplay and controls are not without their issues. Though minor there are noticeable glitches that occur when placing blocks, specifically when they become stuck between objects. Additionally, much like in the preview build of the game there are still some awkward camera angles and movements. The DualSense controller seemed a bit more intuitive than the mouse and keyboard however, which certainly helped make these occur less frequently. There are also a few observable frame rate inconsistencies at specific levels. While these usually resolve themselves rather quickly it does break the immersion of the game a bit. Thankfully none of these are game breaking; hopefully they can be patched quickly.
Little pieces of the world meld together and lend themselves to the emotional story being told. While the story may not be at the forefront all the time, each level has direct connections to the larger story of the Butterworth’s. I appreciate this level of detail and while playing each puzzle these little items almost felt like a small discovery. The letters that are read aloud during important levels add an extra layer of emotion to the story and increase player immersion. These, along with all of the other voice acting, are very well delivered. Experiencing these letters, and all of the moments between Albert and his family, felt very genuine and heartfelt.
The way the music is embedded in the story is captivating as well. It tells an important piece of this story and allows the narrative, and the environments to be felt on a deeper emotional level. The character animations, toy soldiers, and puzzles themselves are smooth, colorful and whimsical. The graphics are a mix between Victorian and Steampunk and I’m here for it. They’re also incredibly charming. While the outskirts of each of the puzzles aren’t as detailed as the main set pieces, they don’t feel too out of place. It might’ve been nice for the entire world to feel shiny and polished but it doesn’t feel elementary.
Overall Tin Hearts takes its players on an emotional journey through the charming world of the Butterworth household. This is done through well delivered voice acting, excellent musical pieces and a delightfully crafted game design. And all through the toy maker’s beautiful tiny tin soldiers. Though not without some minor issues Rogue Sun really nails the details in this game, making for a delightful and immersive experience from start to finish. If you’re looking to spend a few hours solving puzzles in a heartwarming world, Tin Hearts is the perfect adventure to jump into.
*** PC game code provided by the publisher ***
- Increasing puzzle complexity
- Emotional yet endearing narrative
- Charming art & musical direction
- Camera angles awkward at times
- Minor frame rate issues & glitches