Review: Where is My Heart?

WhereIsMyHeart.jpg

When Sony first announced the addition of PlayStation minis downloads for the PSP and PS3 back in 2009, I was excited to see what sort of games would be released.  Since that time, the selection of minis has been a mishmash of titles ported over from iOS games, remakes of previous PSN/XBLA titles and a smattering of original content.  Partially due to the decline of a large number of new titles released for the PSP but also combined with higher prices than what is commonly accepted for downloadable gaming, minis have only been marginally the hit that was first hyped.

Every once in a while though a title comes along that truly shines as an example for what the minis program could be.  Such is the case of Die Gute Fabrik’s Where Is My Heart?.  Initially offered to PlayStation Plus members for free back on November 8th, WIMH is an allegory for family and the differences between each member.  That translates into gameplay by having the player control creatures who are diverse (Orange, Brown and Gray) family members trying to work together traveling through caves to find a new tree to call home.

The actual gameplay seems like it would be simple to describe, as it is basically a platformer with puzzle elements.  However, what gives the game a distinct feel beyond basic platforming is how the levels are presented.  Typically each level is broken into smaller screens displaying the whole level, but each smaller screen is not necessarily placed in the correct layout. Think of the multiple camera cuts displayed in an episode of 24.  Now think of trying to move a monster across the multiple views only to find that the path isn’t straight, and that should give you a good sense of what to expect throughout the entire game.

I am reminded of the movie Memento as I play through WIMH.  I can’t place exactly why, but the tone that oozes from each of the monsters as they chirp or cry when another monster dies (only to quickly respawn at the starting point) seems almost a loving indifference from each family member.  Adding to that indifference, a crisp 8-bit, line-drawing art style similar to Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery subtly brings out the danger of the environment and the emotions from the monsters.  I think when you mix the art and tone with the rewind-like respawn along with the various monsters’ heightened abilities, the game just starts to click.  Click in the same way that Memento clicks when the sudden realization of how a puzzle works sets in.  It’s the same “Ah ha!” moment I guess.  But that works for me.

As the levels progress, the splintered perspectives also become more complex.  Monsters have to work together despite how they may titter when one dies.  Working together allows each monster to unlock their super power required to conquer later stages.  Orange has the ability to rotate the entire view of the puzzle, which allows for moving to spaces that wouldn’t be accessible otherwise.  Gray radiates a glowing light to illuminate hidden pathways and Brown can double jump.  New stages unfold as the monsters discover their powers and puzzles force the monsters to use them.  However, trying to figure out some of puzzles and the use of the super power is not always obvious.  Trial and error or trial by death is almost essential as the last stages are presented.

Minis are games that can be played on both PS3 and PSP. Playing a mini on a full size TV tends to highlight the fact that the games can only be 100 MB or less, with textures that aren’t necessarily meant for display anywhere other than the PSP.  WIMH is the exception.  Because of the smaller views and the minimalist 8-bit style, the game looks really good on a large screen.  Controls between both DualShock 3 and PSP are equal.

Where is my Heart? is one of those experiences that shouldn’t be missed. Following the free PlayStation Plus release from a couple weeks ago, today sees the release to the rest of the PSN store at a price of $6.99.  Fans of puzzle games and quirky art should definitely pick this up, as the minimalism goes a long way to create a rich experience. Rarely are minis this good.

BuyIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Beautiful minimalist art
+ Fun, quick puzzles
+ A mini that looks great on PS3

Cons:
– Later puzzles can be challenging

Game Info:
Platform: PlayStation minis for PSP and PS3
Publisher: Die Gute Fabrik
Developer: Die Gute Fabrik
Release Date: 11/22/2011 (Free to PlayStation Plus members since 11/8/2011)
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Free PlayStation Plus Download

[nggallery id=2118]

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.