Have you ever wanted to play as the spirit of a toymaker as he guides toy soldiers through a tiny door? What? That question is oddly specific? Regardless, you do just that in the upcoming game Tin Hearts, a first-person, Lemmings-esque puzzler with a nostalgic aesthetic and some fairly unique mechanics. You may have actually played the game before, as a prologue (that’s no longer available) was released back in 2018. The game is supposed to launch in the near future, and I got to check out an early part of it. I tell ya, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.
Coming to us from former Fable developers, Tin Hearts is very straightforward at the start. At first, all I could do was move the camera, open a box, and pick up and place objects on pegs. Opening the box results in toy soldiers jumping out and walking. Each level’s goal is simple: get a certain number of soldiers through a door. But the soldiers don’t think and don’t take orders. They walk in a straight line until they hit an obstruction that forces them to turn. If there isn’t an obstruction, they’ll walk straight off the countertops in some cases.
The objects you place are angled so that the soldiers will turn in certain directions upon hitting them. You need to find the objects on pegs around the area and place them in the correct locations so that the soldiers eventually reach their destination. It doesn’t take long for things to become more complex, however. Now, the soldiers aren’t fast, and waiting for them to slowly make their way could have made Tin Hearts tedious. Instead, levels have clocks in them. Interacting with these causes the flow of time to speed up, which reduces the time you have to wait considerably. It’s quite clever.
Back to the front
Clocks are just one such invention that you’ll find in special boxes in the levels. These boxes require a single soldier to walk through a little doorway leading to their interior. Once that happens, you’ll open it and Tin Hearts will get a bit more complicated. It’s after opening one of these boxes that the spirit of the toymaker gets roller skates of some sort (at least, I think that’s what happens). This massively changes the game. Instead of simply looking, you start being able to walk around the levels freely.
Naturally, this means that the levels grow larger and more elaborate as you play. The objects on pegs become harder to find and you need to search for them within the levels. The soldiers also need to cover more ground.
Tin Hearts has a highly enjoyable gameplay loop that left me eager to see what was next. Visually, the game is quite lovely and strongly evokes old-fashioned toys. In between chunks of levels, you can walk around the toymaker’s workshop as well.
It’s all quite charming. I’m curious about what other inventions the toymaker will get his spectral hands on when Tin Hearts releases in full.