What is it?
Everybody knows that light is right. Right? And we all know
that good guys wear white hats, and the bad guys black ones. But what
happens when you turn that upside down, and look at the world from the
side of darkness? Girl with a Heart of is an attempt to do just
This game is most unusual in format, with an odd colour
palette, and a strange set of controls. Already the world has been turned
Is there a plot?
Girl with a Heart of
focuses on the story of Raven. Raven lives in the city of Cryptos, an
underground city powered by darkness. The city is under attack by the
people who live on the surface of the planet, the people of the Light. The
game begins with a scene of Raven in a crowd of dark people running from
the light streaming through the gates of the city. She eventually wakes up
in bed in a home in one of the lower levels of the city. From here, the
plot moves on to examine Raven's origins, her relationships with her
extended family, the development of her dark-powered magic powers, and her
role in the attempts to save the city from the Light.
As the game develops, it becomes clear why the name of the
game seems to stop short of completion.
How do you play?
Girl with a Heart of
has been written with the aid of the Unity game engine, a cross-platform
engine for all sorts of games. In this case, the game is a side-scrolling
adventure, with Raven's movement limited to left and right (A and D, or
left and right arrows). It would be difficult to describe this game as a
point 'n' click adventure as there is not much use of the mouse, though it
does get involved occasionally. This makes for a technically simple
looking game, but the environments are drawn as large varied backgrounds,
with Raven moving across the foreground of the scene.
The rest of the user interface is basically the spacebar,
the number keys, and a couple of other hot keys for Raven's powers, and
for her inventory (such as it is). The spacebar is used for activating
"hot spots" as Raven walks by, though these are indicated by a label in
the top left corner of the screen, rather than the mouse cursor changing
form. The elaborate dialog trees are navigated with the 1, 2, 3, and 4
The main focus of the game is on the dialog trees and the
choices you make therein, and on Raven's use of her powers. There is
significance to how you navigate the dialog trees. Your decisions affect
what dialog options are available in the future, and there's no way to
undo what you might consider a 'bad' decision because the game auto-saves
in one single slot. So if you really screw up your relationship with
someone, you might be able to recover by persuading them you made a
mistake, or you might just have to start over with the New Game option.
That sounds more harsh than it is because Girl with a Heart of is
not actually a particularly long game. The length of playing time depends
largely upon the speed at which you read because there's a lot to read.
However, I think the basic game can be played through in about eight to
ten hours, possibly fewer.
There are few places in the game where you actually have to
use Raven's magic powers in anger, but they are there, and they do matter.
I don't think you can end the game by dying; though given the number of
endings the game has (I haven't seen them all), there might be one I've
missed where you can.
The other aspect I've not covered yet is the small amount
of character development that you can control. Raven has some access to
magic powers, but she also has a few other skills, and part of the game
relates to how you develop those skills. It isn't a case of 'the most
powerful sword smashes the bad guy', it's a much more subtle case of
developing Raven's intuition, or her ability to tell lies, or her level of
skill with magic. These skills, and the others I won't mention, have
subtle effects upon how the story develops.
The two most notable features of this game are its very odd
appearance and the richness of the dialog tree. The dialog has been
covered already, so let's not go there again. However, the look of Girl
with a Heart of is quite unique. It's a side-scrolling game with a
purple and green dominated colour palette. I've seen a lot of adventure
games with fixed scenes; I've seen a lot of adventure games with 360
degree bubble environments; but I've never seen a side-scroller quite like
The other thing that took me ages to notice is that,
despite there being a lot of dialog in the game, it's all written down -
there's no spoken words, no voice acting. Obviously this simplifies things
for the developer with there being no-one to direct. But as I said, it
took a long time to realize that there were no voices, so I don't think
the game actually lost anything for me by being entirely visual.
Okay, not entirely visual as there is a musical
soundtrack of a handful of atmospheric pieces. It's varied enough to not
be distracting, but somewhat repetitive by the end of the game. It does
also suit the atmosphere of the game, though given the urgency of some of
the quests Raven is sent upon, I think it would have helped to increase
the tension if perhaps the soundtrack reflected this.
I struggled in this game with the controls at times.
Especially on the few occasions where quick reactions were required. I
think I just scraped through where others might have failed. The keyboard
controls for Raven's magic skills are sluggish. Perhaps this is a bug in
the Unity engine, perhaps it's an interaction between the game and Windows
Vista, but it did impact my enjoyment of the game.
Whilst this game does take an unusual basic premise, and is
played in an unusual way, I'm not sure that it really succeeds in doing
any more than just replacing the power of Light with the power of Dark in
simple vocabulary and colour palette. What the development team has
achieved, though, is a game that does actually allow the player's
decisions to affect the outcome of the game. This is something that is
sadly lacking in so many modern games and so, for that, I commend them.
What do you need to play it?
System Requirements for the Unity engine:
Windows 2000 or later; Mac OS X 10.4 or
Pretty much any 3D graphics card.
(I used a custom built 64-bit Vista Home Premium SP2 PC
running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 5200+, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire
Radeon HD4670 512MB video card with mother-board sound card)
You can purchase Girl with a Heart of via download
Bent Spoon Games Website.