Pine Hearts Review – Take A Hike

Looking for a cozy escape from the hustle and bustle of the real world? Pine Hearts by Hyper Luminal Games could be what you’re searching for. With pleasing graphics and wholesomeness oozing from every corner, you’ll find yourself ending the game with a warm (albeit, heavy) heart.

Where Pine Hearts shine is the emotion it brings through its well crafted cut scenes. Even though there is no dialog, you can get the sense of what the characters are saying and what emotions they’re giving off. While the explanation of the events in the scenes isn’t completely explained, it doesn’t need to be. Pine Hearts is a tear jerker. It’s about the various ways we can overcome loss, and how it manifests itself in the physical world around us. Pine Hearts is worth a play, even if it’s just to jitter your feel box.

Pine Hearts C
What you think would be the end is actually more grinding of points.

If walking is your favorite activity in games, then Pine Hearts is for you. Enjoy the thumb ache as you wind your way through needlessly long paths. What was the point of the zig zag route if there wasn’t anything interesting along the path? Why waste player’s time in this way? I’m wondering if the developers thought it was exciting to have the players travel for so long with nothing to do. In reality, there isn’t too much traveling to be done, but in the context of the game, where there’s not much to do in the first place, traveling can feel very belabored. It’s almost like a maze, and a way to separate the locations from each other so the player has to play linearly. The maze comes at a fault, however, because it makes backtracking confusing, and unlocking new abilities doesn’t necessarily make it easy to get around.

One interesting feature Pine Hearts has is its accessibility. It has an option to remove held button presses so all you have to do is to press the button once. To be honest, I’m not sure why they needed button presses at all. The one time where button presses made sense was when I wanted to cancel an action I was about to do, but that was only to keep my hyperactive brain from getting ahead of itself. The extra button presses, and the requirement to press the correct button, doesn’t help improve on the fun in Pine Hearts, and simply adds to the feeling of being micromanaged. What’s interesting is while there are accessibility options, you are still constantly using the joystick to move around. So nice idea, but probably needs to have the accessibility applied to the whole game if you’re going to have the option, not just one aspect.

Pine Hearts B
All grandsons look like badgers until they get to a certain age.

The art in Pine Hearts is a simple, yet pleasing aesthetic. It’s almost as if your MegaBlocks toys came to life. Each location has its own separate theme that allows it to clearly separate itself from the other locations. The only real problem I have with the art is the map design. There is both an overworld map and a zoomed in map, but both maps have trouble telling the player where they’re going. The overview map shows all the locations and generically places paths connecting each one, yet these don’t demonstrate where the actual paths are. On the close up map, a lot of the location is cut off because it’s presented at an angle, meaning you have to repeatedly open the menu after moving around to see more of the map. You can’t simply scroll around the map within the menu. Besides the UI problems, the animations in Pine Hearts feel sluggish and take way too long. Especially in spots where you have to do actions repeatedly, the pause to wind up for an action drags the gameplay along.

Music in Pine Hearts is well orchestrated and fits the art theme. The transitions can be a little jarring as it jumps to a different scene, but it’s not a complete game changer. What’s interesting is that you think the music is mainly static due to the hard scene changes, it actually has some dynamism to it once you get the brass band playing on stage. The abruptness of the music changing might be due to more of the game loading in, not necessarily the audio programmer’s fault. The sounds chosen for some actions in the game do not fit in a jarring way. One action in particular, lifting the block out of the way, plays two large squeaks as your character stretches before lifting the large block. For one: the animation is already unnecessary, but two: the sounds are alerting, and if you aren’t aware of what’s going on you may believe something wrong is happening.

Pine Hearts A
Yeah, smash those goblins! This is the only action we’ll get to see!

In summary: simplistic story, light puzzling gameplay with clean art and well orchestrated music.

Jordan played Pine Hearts on PC with a review copy. 

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