Tin Hearts Review: An Emotional Puzzler (Switch)

March into the world of Tin Hearts, a new 3D puzzle game with a great narrative. You must manipulate toys to guide tin soldiers to the finish line, helping them to avoid traps and dangers. Told through memories and puzzles, the story of a toy maker unfolds.

Tin Hearts Review: An Emotional Puzzler

Tin Hearts is a 3D puzzle game about a toy maker and his toys. Set in Albert the toy maker’s house, you will guide tin toy soldiers to a finish line by shifting and manipulating objects in the puzzle room. As you progress, you watch the deep and emotional story of Albert and his family unfold. The unique puzzle mechanics and narrative are engrossing, making this a satisfying puzzle adventure.

Tin Hearts is available now on Nintendo Switch for $29.99. It will be available on PC, PlayStation 4 & 5, Xbox One & Xbox Series X/S on May 16th. Tin Hearts will release on Meta Quest 2, PCVR and PSVR2 later this year.

Tin Hearts - Launch Trailer - Nintendo Switch

Story – A Toy Maker’s Story

In Tin Hearts, you play as the ghost of a toy maker named Albert. During and after puzzles, Albert and his wife and child will appear as memories, re-enacting pivotal moments in their lives. Months and years pass over the course of the game with major ups and downs in his family. Experiencing the drama of Albert and his family was authentic and sad at many times. The voice acting is good, and the character animations are smooth enough for the memories to be compelling. Delving into Albert’s past engrossed me alongside the puzzles and added greater depth to the game. Also, the way time progresses alongside Albert’s toy making is a great way to introduce new toys and puzzle mechanics to the game.

Gameplay – Get to the Toy Box!

Toys are at the heart of Tin Hearts and its gameplay as you guide a self-propelling line of tin soldiers toward a finish line. These soldiers will march until they hit an object or obstacle that impedes them or alters their course. Your job is to manipulate toys and objects to guide these soldiers to the end goal. In this way, it is like a reverse tower-defense game where you set up obstacles along a path so that the soldiers escape danger and complete their mission.

The puzzle chambers are set in rooms in Albert’s house, and always feel very realistic. From his study, to his lounge, lawn, or workshop, these puzzle rooms were a great setting to march the soldiers through. The story follows Albert’s earliest days as a toy maker into his latest projects. This means the toys you manipulate advance in the same way Albert’s skill does; from rudimentary blocks to high-tech electrical toys. 

The memory of Albert and his wife Helen.

The memory of Albert and his wife Helen.

Puzzles

Puzzle-game enthusiasts will have a lot to sink their teeth into when playing Tin Hearts. While the puzzles are fairly on-rails at the beginning, new toy-based mechanics are introduced at a satisfying pace. Every mechanic feels at home in the world, particularly at the plot develops and more electrical and steampunk-inspired toys are introduced. There are about 45 puzzles in total, each more complicated than the last. I regularly spent 20 or more minutes in a single puzzle room, often scratching my head about what to do next.

These puzzles feature many moving parts in order to get your soldiers from one side of a room to another, so there is a lot of room for failure or mismanagement of your tools. Luckily, there is a quick rewind feature that replaces the need to restart the level at every wrong turn. Still, some of these rooms are quite lengthy and allow the player to go down the wrong path for quite a while, so it may have been nice to have an optional hint feature. Ironically, after each “Act” of the game, I was rewarded an achievement in-game for not using hints, but I had no idea how to activate these hints.

A simple block.

A simple block.

Controls and Performance

You play as the toy maker himself, moving around the room, picking up the objects, and moving them into position from a first person perspective. You must search for the puzzle items you can interact with and then bring them over to where you need them. This was an unnecessary part of the puzzle-solving process, not least of which because of the consistently low frame rate. These items are found high and low, and can require a lot of camera moving and walking. The choppy frame rate was actually difficult to stomach if I wasn’t intently keeping my view centered. The ability to quickly snap the camera to each object I could interact with would have been nice.

Using a cannon.

Using a cannon.

Graphics and Sound – Muddy and Marching

The art direction is sublime and cohesive. As the history of this toy maker unfolds and technology advances, each new mechanic appears at home in the world. The Victorian and Steampunk aesthetic is well done, cozy, and very cool. Tin Hearts knows its world and how to express its vision very well. The textures, however, can let the art direction down. The main objects you will be interacting with are detailed enough, especially the tin soldiers, but many objects are quite muddy and have low resolution textures seen below. This lack of polish mars the presentation of the game.

Your detailed tin soldier on a muddy paint palette.

Your detailed tin soldier on a muddy paint palette.

The musical score is understated and melancholy, yet it becomes rousing at the appropriate parts of the story. Luckily, the sound of the marching tin soldiers is quite muted, otherwise it may become quite annoying. A subtle yet foundational charm to the world of Tin Hearts is the way all parts fit together. One example of this is that the background violin score is revealed to be Albert’s wife playing.

Tin Hearts was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a key provided by Wired Productions.

Summary
Tin Hearts is a fun and touching narrative puzzle game. The puzzles are creative and challenging (and a little long), while the story is engrossing without getting in the way of the puzzles. The steampunk art direction and Victorian setting draw you in to the world, story, and the gameplay even more. A lack of graphical polish and performance issues keep this otherwise great game from being amazing.
Good
  • A truly touching story
  • The cohesive setting
  • Challenging puzzles
Bad
  • Muddy textures dampen the art direction
  • Choppy frame rate
  • Difficult controls
8
Great

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