Lemmings was a mass storm back in the day, capturing players attention and imagination on how to guide suicidal creatures from point A to point B without killing to many of them through the use of their unique abilities. Over time, Lemmings has become a legend in the gaming world, fondly looked back upon by many but developers and publishers never seemed interested in capitalising on the success of the game or to bring it back for a new generation of players to experience.
This is where Rouge Sun has stepped in, to try to revitalise this genre for the next generation, and they have to be admired for not giving into the temptation of just creating a new Lemmings clone but for going all out and making something original and unique.
Tin Hearts is set in Victorian times and is based within the Butterworth family home. You take control of Albert, a budding toy maker and inventor, who has a wife, Helen, and a daughter, Rose. It’s not long before you realise that something is not quite right, as you seem to be controlling a spirit of Albert, who is unable to interact with most things around him apart from one of his creations – little toy soldiers. You have to guide these little soldiers from the box they live in to an exit somewhere in the room, and so begins you going from room to room, solving the puzzles held within, and helping the toy soldiers get to their destination.
There are many objects scattered around to help the soldiers get to their destination. You start by using coloured child blocks, which you can place in certain areas to change the direction of the soldiers, but as you progress through the game, and unlock new skills, the puzzles will become more elaborate, incorporating such items as toy trains, drums, fans, and balloon machines. One of the most interesting features is when you get the opportunity to take control of one of the tin soldiers, which gives you a unique way to solve certain areas.
The puzzles will get quite elaborate, with some spanning a massive area. With a couple of these, I did find myself getting lost and confused with how I was supposed to complete the level, as it had so many different layers to get the soldiers to the exit. I would have preferred to keep the levels smaller and have more of them. One other thing you will find yourself doing is searching for the box that contains the soldiers. You have to open this box to start the level, but this box could be anywhere, and I spent quite some time just looking for it before I could start.
You also have the ability to rewind, fast forward, and pause time. So if you make a mistake, it’s just a button press away to erase it and try again. The fast forward is a great way to speed things up, as the tin soldiers do walk slowly, and the pause was my most used of the three. When paused, a guide will appear to show you the trajectory of the soldiers, and you can plan out their path without the fear of them falling off an edge and smashing into little pieces.
While moving objects and blocks, I came across one of the more frustrating parts of the game – the camera. Often shifting to unhelpful angles, sometimes you will spend your time fighting the camera to make it easier for you to see what you are trying to do. It’s not the worst camera I’ve experienced in a game, but it’s something I wish the developers had spent a little bit more time with, just to iron out the kinks.
As you explore the house and complete rooms, you unlock memories of happier times with the Butterworth’s, which play out in front of you as you enter certain rooms. From his wife playing the violin, his daughter playing with her toys, or the whole family having fun in the garden. It really helps to paint the picture of what a content family they are. But, it’s not all roses because as you progress through the game, you will go through some turbulent times with the Butterworth’s. It went ways in which I never expected it too which only heightened my wanting to find out what happened next. This side of the game helped spur me on through some of the tougher puzzles near the end of the game and it was worth it, as it was a rewarding finish to the Butterworth’s tale.
Graphically, Tin Hearts is a bit hit-and-miss. The house itself is very detailed and feels “lived in’. There was never a time while playing where I felt the rooms felt empty, and each different environment felt like I would have expected. The garden was packed out with everything you would expect, and the same goes for the bedroom and basement. The tin soldiers have also received a ton of attention, and they show a lot of detail, from the uniform to the way they walk. The biggest issue I had with the graphics was with the character models. They do not need to be the most detailed models going, but when they walk through objects or when clothing goes through a bed, then I have to point this out. With so much other detail and polish going to other parts of the game, it’s a small shame these couldn’t get the same attention.
I really enjoyed my time with Tin Hearts, with the majority of the puzzles hitting the right note. Some solutions were a bit obtuse, and the larger levels were confusing, but there has been some wonderful thought and imagination put into them. The story side of Tin Hearts really carries you through the game, with well-written and likable characters. You even start to feel some sort of connection to the soldiers themselves! The small graphical issues and wonky camera aside, this seemed stable on the Switch, with no major issues or crashes.
If you are craving a Lemmings-like game mixed with modern-day mechanics, then look no further. It will touch you emotionally, but it will also reward you with its clever level design and well-plotted story. Just one word of warning: you will never look at a jack in the box in the same way ever again!
Tin Hearts is out now on Nintendo Switch and releases on PS, Xbox and PC on the 16th May 2023.
Many thanks to Wired Productions for the review code.