Tin Hearts

Tin Hearts

Onward clockwork soldiers...

Tin Hearts

Did you know that the creators of Grand Theft Auto made the original Lemmings game 32 years ago?  DMA Design put together the first iteration of the puzzle game that spawned the numerous sequels and look-a-likes that have arrived on console and mobile over the last quarter of a century, and the original is still arguably the best.  Over the last three decades game sophistication has come on leaps and bounds, but that doesn’t mean we don’t sometimes cry out for simplicity… and in stomps Tin Hearts to heed our call.  Taking inspiration from the classic 2D puzzler developed by what became Rockstar North, this is a straight forward game aimed at telling a story through the medium of clockwork soldiers trekking through cosy, playful environments. Without the obvious comparisons though, are Rogue Sun able to find their own footing and march a little magic into our souls?

Set in an alternate-ish Victorian world, Tin Hearts tells the story of Albert J. Butterworth’s inventing of a new toy and how he delights his daughter and wife with his whimsical creation.  Relayed through ghostly flashbacks, you experience what the family were like as you solve the various puzzles left around the house, all of which consist of toy soldiers that walk from point A to point B in a straight line unless you interfere with their path.  Every puzzle’s goal is easy – get from the starting box to the finishing door with the requisite number of soldiers using whatever objects are lying around the space to manipulate the route.  Some items will be static and obvious like angled blocks that sit on matching jigsaw pieces; others will be naturally part of the environment; and you’ll encounter unique ways of changing routes as the journey evolves.  You’ll need to make your way from attic to basement whilst discovering more contraptions and coming across enigmatic toys to uncover the whole tale, though the real joy here is figuring out how to guide the little men around the everyday objects in their way.

Set in a full 3D space, you actually move around the rooms the puzzles are set in to find the items needed to create routes and divert the tin men.  For instance, you might need to get your mechanical army to walk along a window sill and across some chairs, and will need to find angled blocks to do it.  This adds an element of the hidden object genre to proceedings that sees you scouring the environment for everything that can be grabbed and placed.  The majority of the time you’ll find that items are in short supply and that demands removing and replacing objects on the fly as your snake of soldiers winds its way around.  A test of timing and forward thinking initially, Tin Hearts does make things a tad easier by introducing mechanics that allow you to alter the flow of time – rewinding and fast forwarding at will so that actions can be triggered or mistakes recovered.  In a wonderful, if slightly confusing touch, some of the rooms you walk through are visited more than once, and you can see sections of puzzle that can’t be completed yet, or you end up reusing old solutions in a new way when you come back through.  There’s a genuine feeling of haphazard work layouts that define the genius inventor part of Butterworth that possess an underlying logic that is gently revealed.

Key to the success of Tin Hearts is really how the core characters are portrayed, and the soldiers are charming to watch marching around, though come into their own as you use the various inventions to give them new abilities.  Whether it’s using drums as bounce pads, grabbing balloons to float across gaps, playing musical instruments to move objects, or even becoming fully autonomous, there’s a lot of effort gone into making you feel something for the metal men.  Their blind insistence on marching ever forward make them vulnerable to the hazards dotted around the house, and you are taking on the role of protector as much as guide.  The Butterworth’s home itself is a large middle class affair with many rooms that have distinct features and furniture that allow for a fair amount of creativity in the puzzle setup.  Sure, they’re not filled to the brim with things you can pick up and examine, that would overcomplicate things to a degree, but all decoration is there for a reason whether selling the environmental story or giving a sense of time and place.  Everything comes together to deliver a cosy, nostalgic feel that wouldn’t be far out of place in a magical Christmas movie.

Tin Hearts then is bright and colourful and hits the right vibe for the time period and story setting.  Performance is pretty solid too with every toy acting as it should and the physics elements doing their jobs.  Voice acting is engaging enough and whilst the flashbacks punctuate the completion of certain sections, they don’t disrupt the flow of the game too much.  The only things I found slightly odd were actually the pacing of movement around the rooms – it feels a tad too slow; and the camera use when you pick up puzzle pieces.  Standard first person controls apply at all times, which means that focusing on the soldiers or moving blocks around reverses the left/right controls.  It’s not exactly problematic, yet it is jarring when you’re expecting to move the camera one way and have to compensate for the view.  There’s also the underlying sense that this should be a VR game that lets you get up close and personal with the paths you’re building, as well as searching out the right components in the rooms… and is something that would fall right in Rogue Sun’s wheelhouse (for PSVR2 owners this is supposed to be coming at a later date).

A wonderfully charming puzzle game that keeps on adding new elements as you get further into its story, Tin Hearts is a great one to take your time working through.  It won’t expect mental gymnastics or leaps of faith to find solutions, yet it will make you put in the effort to get to its final destination.  After 40-odd levels over the four acts you’ll be ready for a break, though expect that the attachment to those little mechanical marvels and quaint aesthetic style may well just pull you back in to try and figure out alternate solutions to some of the set pieces.  Rarely do Wired Productions back a dud title, and there’s no exception here, so get yourself wound up for a thoughtful adventure.

A PS5 review copy of Tin Hearts was provided by Rogue Sun’s PR team, and the game is out now on PlayStation, PC and Switch for around £25, depending on platform.

The Verdict


The Good: Distinct puzzle style | Charming throughout

The Bad: Sedate pace won’t be for everyone | Easy to overlook puzzle components

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Co-founder & Editor at Codec Moments

Gamer, F1 fanatic, one half of the Muddyfunkrs DJ duo (find us over on Hive Radio UK), MGS obsessed, tech geek.

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