Where Is My Heart? is a charming puzzle/platforming game developed by Die Gute Fabrik, a small, independent development studio located in Copenhagen, Denmark. While this title was originally released for the PS3 and PSP in 2011, I didn’t own either of those consoles at the time. Luckily, the game was released for PC in 2014, and even more recently was on sale via humblebundle.com, so I decided to pick it up.
Where Is My Heart? tells the story of a family of forest spirits who one day find themselves lost after their forest becomes fragmented by an unknown force. By working together, the three spirits must gather wandering hearts while traversing this fragmented, dreamlike world in order to become reunited with their king, the tree. Much of the story of Where Is My Heart? is implied rather than explained. Even these tiny bits of information I had to find via the official website as opposed to within the game itself, which is strange, because even this subtle backdrop gives much-needed context to what is going on in the game world. Without it, much of the story is too cryptic; which is a shame, because the main gameplay mechanic, which I’ll get to in a moment, is tied directly to its plot.
The gameplay of Where Is My Heart? consists of a series of head-scratching puzzles that uses your concept of space against you. The objective is deceptively simple – guide the three forest spirits from the start of the level to its end. Each subsequent stage gets a little trickier with the clever use of space-altering tiles, making the player adapt to an abstract pseudo-spacial awareness. It successfully translates a “fragmented world” story element into gameplay, effectively making use of the “show-don’t tell” approach to storytelling. The further you dig into the deeper layers of this fragmented world, the harder and more abstract these puzzles become, and the more you have to rely on each character’s unique traits. Each forest spirit is granted a special ability which coincides with a specific level’s puzzle: The brown spirit grows antlers and gains a double jump ability, the orange spirit can rearrange tiles while remaining in place, and the grey spirit can see hidden platforms, some which only it can stand on. These new abilities open up an entirely different set of logic to work with – adding a higher degree of challenge to completing each stage, while carving a serious incline to the game’s difficulty curve. Luckily, the only punishment you receive for dying is loss of points. Which is not a bad thing, considering how many times I died just trying to reach the level’s end.
Where Is My Heart? features a sprite-based, colorful art style that relies on a pastel color scheme to successfully convey the game’s other-worldly atmosphere and setting. This visual theme pairs well with the low-fi, mellow electronic soundtrack and sound effects, coming together to evoke a feeling of tranquility, and at times, even melancholy. It’s a remarkable feeling I’d never expect a puzzle game to successfully communicate, and that’s a big part of what makes Where is My Heart? so special. As a side note, I highly recommend playing with headphones for the best possible experience. The sound is very rich and subtle, and worth hearing every ambient note.
Each little forest spirit has its own personality to match their unique ability. The orange spirit seems to be perpetually sad until he transforms into a blissfully happy angel. The grey spirit’s special ability, while allowing him to see hidden platforms, also reveals a sinister, evil world behind the veil. Both of the brown spirit’s forms are uncharacteristically neutral, but they have a quirky charm about them regardless. All in all, this game has a lot of character, and it’s cohesively designed for each of its elements to blend with each other as a whole.
That doesn’t mean that Where Is My Heart? is a perfect game, and i’m not without complaints. For one, many of my accidental deaths were due to the imprecise floatiness of the controls, which make navigating some of the tighter platforming sections more difficult than they should be. While this could have been a conscious design choice, and maybe the problem would’ve been alleviated if they added controller support, the difficulty of each stage’s puzzle could stand on its own without the addition of wonky platforming. Speaking of which, While most of the game’s puzzles felt intuitive and fun to solve, there were a couple which had a very esoteric, out of left field solution. The difficulty curve does a pretty good job of funneling you into the right mindset for each stage, but some stages feel out of order, either being too hard when compared with, or not related to the previous stage. Lastly, there are some stages which rely on a heavily zooming in, possibly to disorient the player. If that was the reason, then they definitely succeeded. Otherwise, I would’ve prefered these puzzles be replaced by variations on the better stage designs.
Where Is My Heart? shouldn’t take an average-skilled player any longer than a few hours to complete. There is a replayability factor here if you’re going for all the hearts, but otherwise, once you’ve solved a stage, you move on. The game is great in short, half-hour bursts, but I can see someone plowing through it in one sitting.
For those of you who like games with a bit of challenge and a dollop of personality, you will find a lot to like in this game. A short but sweet puzzle adventure that turns conventions upside down and plays with your perception of space, Where Is My Heart? provides plenty of thought-provoking, laid back fun.