As far as gameplay concepts go, Where Is My Heart? is agonisingly slight: a simple puzzle-platformer dressed in a pastel pixel art-style, accompanied by an ethereal chip-tune soundtrack. But once it presents itself properly, it becomes much more of a pain to describe. And, subsequently, a much more ambitious prospect.
Strip away the genius of Where Is My Heart? and you'll find the most simplistic of platformers. There are spike-pits, rivers and deathly canyons. You'll need to use Super Mario-esque hopping mechanics to traverse your trio of protagonists — Orange, Grey and Brown — towards their destination in order to move onto the next screen (or level). The characters can be stacked like storage boxes to reach previously unattainable ledges, but that's about as far as Where Is My Heart?'s core mechanical ambition goes.
It's the presentation that transforms Where Is My Heart? into an innovative delight. Stages are divided into jumbled mosaics, each showing a different area of the environment in a muddled manner. Running to the right of the stage, won't necessarily see your character move to the right of the screen — and so the game becomes a test in managed expectations. You'll need to carefully drink in the entirety of the screen, edging your character along to see which panel he'll appear in next. Sprint through and you'll find yourself crumpled in a trap of spikes.
Along the way you'll be collecting pink hearts and stomping switches to open doors. But while it sounds simplistic, the jigsaw like presentation transforms some of the most basic tasks into real tests of concentration. And the game's confident enough in its execution to constantly mix things up, so you're seeing new puzzles right through to the conclusion of the game's campaign.
Many of the game's latter puzzles stem from transformation blocks that give all three of your characters new abilities. The Brown character can turn into a double-jumping elk, and the Grey character a kind of all-seeing bat. But it's the Orange character that introduces the most complex puzzles, transforming into a pudgy bird capable of rotating the game's mosaic blocks to reach previously unattainable destinations.
It all gets devilishly challenging towards the end, but Where Is My Heart? never loses its sense of intricacy. The game has an effortless kind of infectiousness to it, that forces you to persevere in spite of difficulty and frustration. It encourages you to experiment, and constantly rewards you with new ideas and fresh puzzles.
Like all the best PlayStation Minis, Where Is My Heart? is a difficult game to put down. But it goes above and beyond the traditional expectations for a game in its class — offering an experience that's not only accessible and addictive, but also memorable and genuinely innovative.
Developer Die Gute Fabrik describes the game as a metaphor for the complications of family. That pitch is a little too pretentious for our tastes. But regardless of any deeper sentiment, the indie developer has produced a surprising must have with Where Is My Heart?.
Released with an almost non-existent level of fanfare, Where Is My Heart? has captured ours. It's a fluent and ethereal adventure that proves there's always room to innovate in a seemingly exhausted genre with ingenuity and great execution. In a crowded release season packed with blockbuster sequels, Where Is My Heart? feels like a rainy day in the Sahara desert. It's unexpected, but most certainly welcome.