Generally speaking, it’s well known that the best ideas are the ones that can be explained in a single sentence. In the case of Where Is My Heart?, a recently released Playstation Mini available on both PS3 and PSP, I’m not even sure I know how to explain the idea properly at all. Yet that’s not a bad thing, not in the least.
One could easily describe it as a 2D puzzle platformer about a family of three animals that must work together to reach the goal of each stage, but that glosses over what is so unique about this game and what makes it so difficult to describe.
What makes Where Is My Heart? unique is the main hook of its panel laden stages. Each stage is a single screen that is sliced up like a sliding panel puzzle, only instead of trying to unscramble the stage and put things into their proper place, the player needs to figure out how to navigate it the way it is. All of a sudden a simple task such as walking to the right of a screen becomes a hazard because it’s up to the player to be spatially aware of where their character will appear once exiting a panel.
After a few stages of allowing players wrap their minds around this concept, the developers slowly layer in new and thoughtful ideas, eventually getting to the point where the player has limited control of changing the location of the panels in order to help the trio reach their destination.
Speaking of which, the family of animals the player has control over are unique in their own right, each with their own abilities that are called upon when the stage demands their use. The Father animal gains the ability to see secret passages that only he can navigate, the Son animal turns into a large elk with the ability to double jump, and the Mother animal is the one that has the aforementioned ability to scramble the panels around the screen.
Unfortunately, most of the challenge comes from trial and error as sometimes it’s just a little too hard figuring out how to navigate the panels. There are way too many blind jumps, leading to frustrating deaths that happen over and over again with nary a clue on how to proceed. In some cases it’s nothing but pure guess work on how to get through some of the later stages, especially when asked to scramble the panels around and hoping that the Mother animal ends up where she’s needed. Thankfully the only real punishment in death is that points are docked from the player’s score, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating to be sent back to the start many times over. Besides, it’s sad to hear the Mommy animal cry whenever the Father and Son animals bite it.
That said, I appreciate how the game respects me as a player by never forcing me to sit through a boring tutorial, instead showing me the ropes through solid level design and visual clues. When the game is at its peak, it works wonderfully as there is a healthy amount of genuinely good head scratching moments throughout the game’s 26 stages.
While Where Is My Heart? may defy explanation, just know this charming little game with a never-before-seen concept is worth a look.