Published on May 2nd, 2023 | by Gareth Newnham
Tin Hearts Review
Summary: Tin Hearts is the adorable, and poignant spiritual successor to Lemmings you never knew you needed.
Tin Hearts is a heart-warming puzzler that combines first-person adventure mechanics with Lemmings-like navigation puzzles, to create something that is as challenging as it is adorable.
Players take on the role of a ghostly toymaker who must guide a platoon of clockwork toy soldiers from their box to a mysterious door that appears in different rooms of his former home.
Developer, Rouge Sun has cited Lemmings as an influence and it is very much one that Tin Hearts wears on its sleeve. Like Lemmings, you don’t directly control any of the tin soldiers, but manipulate the path they are taking to make sure they don’t march off the side of a table and smash into tiny pieces. However, unlike Lemmings, you don’t affect the soldier’s actions but the environment around them to make sure they make it home safe and sound.
This is where the first-person adventure elements come in. Rather than just having a menu and a selection of options you have to look around each room and find the blocks, wedges and other tools needed to make sure the soldiers reach their goal.
As you progress you can send the soldiers to unlock chests that give you an expanding set of tools and abilities. The most important though, is the ability to control the flow of time, allowing you to try different routes and course correct if it goes wrong.
Mechanics are also added at a fairly steady pace. To start with you’ll only be able to place blocks with holes in them on pegs, then you’ll get wedges you can place anywhere, and before you know it you’re moving toy trains, sending the soldiers skyward as they cling into balloons and having them use strategically placed drums as trampolines.
What seems simple to start with, ends up being anything but, with some of the later stages feeling akin to a Rube Goldberg machine in their complexity, and it’s just as fun to watch all the pieces fall into place.
During each level as your ghostly figure regains their faculties they start to remember details about their life, work and family, this plays out via scenes which play out as your tin soldiers make their way around each room, as well as environmental details that further enhance the narrative. I don’t want to spoil it, but the narrative is well told, and the performances from the primary cast are excellent.
Tin Hearts is a charming game, the Tin soldiers are bursting with character and every level is packed with little details that are just begging to be explored. However, on Switch at least, the lower resolution of the game can make some of the more subtle environmental details look a little muddy.
It’s also clear that it was meant for VR, and the thought of being able to actually lean in and watch the toy soldiers as they march along feels like something that would make the experience even better. (Which is why I was really happy to find out it’s getting a PSVR2 version in the near future.)
Right now though the controls work pretty well with you grabbing objects with the press of a button, with reliable twin-stick controls for movement and looking. Though sometimes, when you’re trying to get at an awkwardly placed block the camera feels like it has been possessed by an angry ghost.
Regardless though the presentation is solid, the soldiers are lovely and the accompanying soundtrack helps convey a calm, yet slightly lonely atmosphere in keeping with both the gameplay and the narrative. I do have one minor quibble though, the instruments in the game that soldiers interact with don’t make the musical noises you would hope they would when bouncing off a drum or marching across a xylophone.
Overall though, Tin Hearts is a superb puzzle game, with strong mechanics, ingenious level design and an engaging narrative, that can’t fail to give you the warm and fuzzies as you watch your adorable tin soldiers happily march around the workshop guided by your subtle prompts. Like all great puzzle games, Tin Hearts layers on the complexity at a steady pace but the solution never feels obtuse or completely out of reach. If you’re looking for a game to test your brain matter while pulling on your heartstrings you should march to the eshop at the double.