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Tin Hearts Preview: A Charming Puzzle Game With Lots Of Heart

As someone who seldom plays puzzle games, I wasn’t too sure what to expect when I was invited to play a few hours of Rogue Suns’ upcoming debut title Tin Hearts in London. After playing a few levels of the game, I found myself dazzled by its charming Pixar-inspired design and visuals, its head-scratching puzzles, and the potential for a deep and emotional story.

Tin Hearts is set in an alternate-timeline Victorian universe, and it tells the story of inventor Albert J. Butterworth and his family – wife Helen and daughter Rose. In the game, you’re tasked with guiding a group of toy soldiers from their magical box to a destination within a location around the Butterworth home, all without smashing them.

You’ve likely noticed – either through the description of the game above or through any trailers or gameplay videos – that Tin Hearts takes inspiration from Lemmings, but it also builds upon the game. In Tin Hearts you use the environment to guide your tin soldiers, letting them bounce off walls, bed awnings, toys, plates, and other ordinary objects. You also manipulate said environment to direct the soldiers; place toy blocks on their path to change their direction, guide them to canons to shoot down items and create pathways, bounce them off drums to cross gaps or reach higher places, and order them into balloon-making machines to float across vast distances.

Toying Around

During my time with Tin Hearts, I played a few levels from the first half of the game. Some of the levels I had access to were a music room, Rose’s bedroom, Albert’s workshop, and the family garden. The tutorial levels I started with required me to place toy blocks and direct bounceable drums to send the toy soldiers across short shelves, desks, and windowsills. Within a short time, I was introduced to some of the game’s special abilities; a pause power and abilities to fast-forward and rewind time, the latter of which allows you to save lost soldiers and send them back to restart the level if needed.

The levels eventually opened up, and the Butterworth family’s music room was the first open level I attempted. In it, I directed soldiers immediately forward to their destination – a decision that resulted in their immediate death. I quickly realised that to get the soldiers to their glowing portal, I needed to rewind time completely and send them on a long journey around the outskirts of the room. The soldiers dropped from shelves, bounced off teacups, trekked along xylophones, jumped over and climbed pianos, slid down harps, circled tables, ascended ladders, and used books as stepping stones all before reaching their destination.

Tin Hearts used this deceptive tactic more than once in my playtime. In a later level that seemingly took place on Rose’s birthday, I sent my troops on a straightforward journey that resulted in them floating towards but just being out of reach of their destination. After several minutes of exploring the room and all manipulatable objects, I was given a hint by developers and realised, much to my chagrin, that I had to rewind the entire level and start over by sending the soldiers back on themselves rather than forward and completing the level.

Pleasant Surprises And Challenging Puzzles

During a level in Rose’s bedroom, I unlocked an additional ability to possess and directly control one of the toy soldiers. As the soldier, I was given opportunities that weren’t available to me while guiding them; I knocked down books to create climbable stepping-stones, I positioned ladders, and I pushed a pair of scissors to slice the rope of an anchored floating ship, allowing it to float to the ceiling and create a bridge between two shelving units and access to the soldiers’ final destination.

Towards the end of the preview event, I was given the opportunity to try a level much later in the game, taking place in the Butterworth family garden. The playing area had suddenly doubled, and I was given a new ability to control pinwheels and blow soldiers hanging from balloons across the garden. I knocked down chess pieces and a mobile train, played with the usual toy blocks, and directed said pinwheels to help the soldiers get to their destination.

The fully-realised 3D environment of each level added a layer of interactivity I hadn’t expected. I wasn’t just presented with a screen of obstacles and had to solve the puzzle. Instead, I had to explore each room or environment, scope out potential routes for soldiers, and then direct them through the level. This, along with the new abilities and gameplay mechanics presented to me while playing, kept me on my toes and questioning whether I was sending the soldiers in the correct direction.    

A Deeper Meaning

Rogue Sun has touted the game as having a deep and emotional story, and while marching the soldiers throughout each level, I was treated to short cutscenes of the family that played in tandem as I solved puzzles, offering a glimpse into their lives and relationships. The cutscenes, although short, did a wonderful job of setting up the family dynamic, whether they were playing musical instruments, painting, playing in the garden, or having tense conversations.

I, unfortunately, didn’t get to experience any of the emotional storytelling from the few levels I played as most of the cutscenes acted as introductions to the family. I’m unsure where the game’s story will go, but I could see Rogue Sun laying the groundwork by building the familial relationships slowly. It’ll be a treat to see how things unfurl later on, and how that’s intertwined with the gameplay.

My time with Tin Hearts was fun, challenging, and surprising, and, although I’m concerned with how long Rogue Sun can keep the game fresh before it gets stale, I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with the story and what other surprises the team have in store for me and everyone else.

Tin Hearts, developed by Rogue Sun and published by Wired Productions, launches for PC, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation and Xbox consoles on April 20th, 2023. It will also launch later this summer for PS VR2, Meta Quest 2, and PC VR.

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