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Where Is My Heart? Review

It's a family affair.

Where Is My Heart? is a pain to describe but a pleasure to actually play. Thankfully, the basis, at least, is relatively simple. You're dropped into a series of pretty pastel-coloured platforming levels and your job is always the same: get to the exit. How you do that, though? That's another matter entirely.

At the core of the game is a concept so ingenious, I'm stunned I've never seen it before. Where Is My Heart?'s environments are actually quite straightforward - spike pits, waterfalls, a few floating blocks here and there - but the developer's taken the scissors to them, turning each level into a series of little comic-book panels and then jumbling them all up. Walk to the left from your starting point, and you may not actually appear in the panel to your left. You may appear in the panel to your right, or the panel above you, or the panel way, way over on the other side of the screen. It plays absolute havoc with your brain.

Your first task in each stage, then, is to look at the muddled world you've been given and try to work out how it all fits together. Are you on the edge of a drop? Are you at the bottom of a pit? Are all the panels the same scale, or are you going to be tiny in one and a giant in the next? Do they overlap at all, leading to a weird hall-of-mirrors effect? Where are you meant to be going?

By the time the game starts to use the different character skills simultaneously, you're in for some challenging puzzles. Luckily, Where Is My Heart? makes complexity palatable with the effortlessness of a good Zelda dungeon.

On top of the challenges posed by merely getting around safely, the game likes to pile on proper puzzles: barriers which require you to headbutt key blocks to open them, say, or ledges which lay out of bounds of even your longest jump. These are simple enough elements by themselves, but the game is constantly tying things together in unique ways. Towards the end of the adventure, you're almost guaranteed that each level will hinge on a trick you've never seen before. How often can you say that?

Then there's your family. In Where Is My Heart?, you're not controlling a single character but three siblings of various colours, and you switch between them at will. You can stack them to reach higher ledges, and you can also use a series of transformation blocks to turn them into other characters, each with their own powers.

The brown one becomes a kind of cheeky little elk, with the ability to double-jump. The grey guy transforms into a weird bat that can see hidden ledges and useful gaps in otherwise sheer walls. Most confusing of all, the orange fellow can evolve into a weird floating marshmallow angel called a Rainbow Spirit, and is then able to rotate the order of panels on the screen, and even hover in place outside of the panels to hop between them as they shift past beneath him. Rainbow Spirit levels are a merry nightmare to complete.

You can't fail a level, but you will slowly whittle away at your final score.

If all this is squishing your brain into treacle, then I've done a pretty good job of explaining what it's like to play through such an imaginative, intricate, and surprising game. Don't be put off, though. The dainty pixel-art split-screen presentation may make it look like an episode of 24 directed by people who really like to spend their spare time quilting, but it's every bit the heir to the likes of Kirby, Zelda and Zoe Mode's miserably under-rated Crush when it comes to mechanics, energy and sheer invention.

Die Gute Fabrik - watch out for this developer, it's on a roll - calls Where Is My Heart? a simple video game about the complications of family, and you can certainly see a little of that in the way that your brothers are both a boon and a burden. Sometimes, they're the only thing getting you to the exit of a stage; often, though, they're the single biggest hurdle.

Even better than all that, however, is the fact that Where Is My Heart? is a video game about video games - about the possibilities that still lurk within even the busiest of genres, and of great new ideas brought to life by ingenuity, focus, and flair.

8 / 10