Girl with a Heart of

 

 

Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Bent Spoon Games

Released:  November 2011

Additional screenshots

 

 

 

 

by gremlin

 

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 that.

This game is most unusual in format, with an odd colour palette, and a strange set of controls. Already the world has been turned upside down.

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 keys.

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.

Notable Features

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 this one.

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.

Oddities

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.

Conclusions

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 later.
  • 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 from the Bent Spoon Games Website.

 

December 2011

design copyrightę 2011 GameBoomers Group

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