STAFF REVIEW of Tin Hearts (Xbox One)

Tuesday, May 16, 2023.
by Peggy Doyle

Tin Hearts Box art “Behind every brilliant invention, hides a magical story. From members of the team that brought you Fable, comes Tin Hearts – an immersive puzzle adventure game wrapped in a powerful tale of love and compromise.”

If there was ever a tagline that was designed just for me, this might be it. I have a massive amount of love for the Fable franchise as well as a love for puzzle games and, of course, great emotional stories. Rogue Sun is a studio started by three developers that used to work together at Lionhead Studios (the studio behind the Fable series). The fantasy elements I loved about Fable are clear and evident in their newest game, Tin Hearts.

Tin Hearts plays out over the course of four acts, following the life of Albert J. Butterworth - a simply fantastic name. He’s an inventor and toy maker living in Victorian times. It takes place throughout the Butterworth home, across multiple rooms and floors, as well as across multiple generations of family. You will meet and learn about Albert, his wife Helen, and their daughter Rose, following them through significant life events. It’s really hard to talk about the story in Tin Hearts without giving spoilers, so I’ll say it’s emotional. It is told through cut scenes and through interactive components you’ll discover in each level.

While there is an overarching story, the main component of the game that you are playing is the tin soldier puzzles. Guiding your tin soldiers through over 40 levels of toy filled worlds, using other toys and inventions to traverse from A (a storage box) to B (a cute little exit door). Your primary way to maneuver your line of tin soldiers are triangle shaped blocks. These each have one of four shapes (triangle, horseshoe, a crescent moon, and a T shape). Each of them can only be attached to the post of the same corresponding shape. There will also be some ‘blank’ triangle blocks that don’t need to be placed on posts. They are the most useful and can be used in multiple ways to guide your soldiers.

You’ll use drums to bounce off of, balloons to glide, cannons to knock things down and create bridges and pipes to glide/flow through your levels. Each room is full of Rube-Goldberg like machines and as you progress you will unlock new skills and powers. This opens new and imaginative ways to solve the puzzles. For example, you will learn to manipulate time, speeding it up when just marching, or rewinding time if you have made a mistake. You can even pause time while you look around and determine your next step. This is an incredibly useful skill. From time to time, you will also take control of one of the toy soldiers and can move freely around the room to forge the path for your fellow toy soldiers to eventually follow. This was a really enjoyable experience and seeing things as larger than life around you gave a unique perspective of the rooms.

I found the puzzles to be extremely interesting and was even telling friends how enamoured I was with the game and how I couldn’t stop playing it. I didn’t find the puzzles frustrating for the most part, and the difficulty was well balanced and increased at a steady rate. I did find that they made me think at times, forced me to slow down and look multiple steps ahead to figure out how to get there. You can complete/pass most levels with less soldiers than you start with but there are achievements aligned with completing the levels with all soldiers collected.

Animation style was similar to older classic animated movies, and Saturday morning cartoons. Familiar and warm. The voice acting was great, and the emotions were clearly presented as I followed the story. While you take your time working though the puzzles, be sure to notice the incredible soundtrack from award winning composer, Matthew Chastney, whose credits include trailers for ‘Joker’, ‘Chernobyl’ and ‘Bridgerton’. There was something familiar with the music, and after seeing Chastney’s credits, this makes sense. It was also deeply nostalgic and warm and reminded me of the older movies of Christmases with kids playing. Accompanied with the Victorian visuals, it was a perfect match.

Tin Hearts is a standout for its puzzles. I’m not saying the story was weak by any means, but perhaps the puzzles were just that good that it made it feel weak. I found myself wanting to skip right to the next puzzle, that’s how much I enjoyed my time with them. It oozes warmth and charm and is filled with a sense of nostalgia that isn’t often seen in games from my experience. If you want an easy playing puzzle game that won’t leave you frustrated, or if you are a fan of heartfelt stories, I think Tin Hearts is perfect little game to tinker with.

*Tin Hearts was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X*

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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