Light. A bright portal from which sizzling tendrils of lightning burst. And I’m walking towards it.
It’s not the introduction I expected from Tin Hearts, a game whose main mascot is a tiny toy soldier. However, it sets an intriguing tone as I seem to be playing as a ghost returned to my comforting workshop to finish something important. The narrative unfolds from here but in a subtle way, serving as a deeper background to the main puzzle game focus. Starting small, these challenges grow more intricate throughout, demanding increasingly clever problem-solving.
The moment-to-moment gameplay tasks me with getting wind-up figures from point A to point B. They walk all on their own, so part of the challenge is to remove or place obstacles in the soldiers’ path so as to guide them to their destination.
The toys’ pace can feel hasty when trying to scramble to set something up in time. But when I got the puzzle set, the marching could feel slow. Luckily, I’m quickly given a clock to speed up time, negating the potential for a very tedious experience. The game is also nice enough to grant me a recall mechanic for those moments where I inadvertently lead a brave doll to its doom.
While my attention stays on the wooden warriors for the most part, I also take a moment before starting them marching to check my surroundings. The levels have so far all been set inside a toy maker’s studio — obviously owned by someone that cared about their craft and infused the space with warmth. By examining the art on the walls, pictures on the counters, and trinkets on the shelves, I begin to piece together the game’s story.
I connect a certificate with a name I was called before the action began, making me realize the space is mine. My spectral hands would seem to indicate I’m no longer inhabiting the sawdust-sprinkled chamber. I also catch hints of my life as a portrait matches the woman I’m embracing in the next level’s framed photograph. This, along with the more logic-based puzzles, urges me on to see what the next level holds.
I still have a long way to go in Tin Hearts. So far, its charming combination of artful storytelling and deceptively simple puzzles make me want to see more.