Previously available on Oculus Rift thanks to Early Access, Tin Hearts was then pulled thanks to the likes of Wired Productions coming onboard as a publishing, allowing developer, Rogue Sun, the chance to go beyond the VR game that initially set out to create and make it into the complete adventure they hoped it would be. Some setbacks had to be overcome to make a VR game work as flawless as it does on PC and console platforms, but now a working demo is available and it is time for the toy soldiers to go marching on.
Like the developers at Rogue Sun like to say, “behind every brilliant invention hides an incredible story” and in Tin Hearts that story is the tale of an accomplished toymaker, Albert J. Butterworth, living in a fabricated Victorian era past. When it comes to Albert, like something out of Toy Story and the Night at the Museum films, the toys he makes can come alive and it is down to the player to guide them to success in this perplexing, but lovingly created puzzle game, intended to charm and surprise.
What starts off as small-scale levels inside a toymaker’s house, restricted to a singular table, easily opens to entire rooms and open gardens, where players are tasked to open the magical toybox, in which these toys spring to life from, and do all that you can to guide them to the magic door at the end of the level, making sure the required amount reach their destination. At first, all that might stand in your way is a couple of blocks that might need to be rotated or even moved, but soon plenty of other interesting gimmicks are added to the mix, testing each player’s ability the further you progress.
As each level expands, it gets larger in scale and players are free to look all the way around them, thanks to fully supported 360° degrees rotations around each setting, players can swiftly become required to look for other blocks to borrow from around the room and put them to yours as you try to lead your toy soldiers from point A, to point B and even point C. Of course, it’s not just blocks you will need to contend with.
The more you play, the harder things will become, thanks to clocks that can be interacted with to speed up the flow of time and the time it takes for soldiers to reach their terminal point, but then comes toy trains, pathways that can be created, only by causing toy cannons to open fire and blast wood panels into the correct position. Then of course, there are the toy drums, which when interacting with, can be used to direct where your toy soldiers land, but then there are also balloons, which can really make your soldiers fly, be it for a brief period of time.
Then there’s also fairy doors and added gameplay gimmicks in the form of players being able to unlock helpful control inputs that can help to speed up the flow of time at different speeds, reverse it, freeze it outright and, the true icing on the cake, the means to see the direction in which your toy soldiers will head in, allowing you to properly plan out the correct course for them. However, one must remember that these abilities are restricted only to the levels that allow use of them, which means, were you to replay an earlier level where reversing time is not available, you will not be able to use it.
Furthermore, on the larger levels which can take longer to solve, there are only a set number of checkpoints in place, but this is something that could be changed be it before the release of the full game, or after, as part of an update. What is definite in this current moment of time from when I played the game’s demo, is that of the game’s many time-manipulating levels, is multiple paths to complete certain levels and a touching story throughout, depicting many flashbacks of happier times, with Albert’s daughter Rose often in the limelight.
What you see and what you expect might differ greatly by the time you get to play the full title, but with all of the above, coupled with a compelling soundtrack that accompanies the gameplay harmoniously, it swiftly becomes hard not to want to play all the way to the game’s climatic end and see for yourself just how this story of three acts, comes to together. Plus, the level of depth and detail in each toy soldier and locations, has a shine and polish that radiates warmth and charm throughout.