Alternating between in-depth analysis and short, irreverent reviews.
My review style reflects that the internet will have many people attempting to write objective assessments of a game's quality. I aim to put forwards either a new angle on a game, or offer a personal anecdote which I feel embodies the experience of it.
My theory aims to go beyond the superficial 'what' of gaming, into the more subtle 'how'. It has been described as a phenomenology of gaming, which is obviously ludicrous.
As you’d expect given the name, ‘These Robotic Hearts of Mine’ tugs at the heartstrings. That’s not something to dismiss lightly in a cog-turning puzzle about aligning hearts vertically, which more than anything reminds me of this goofy thing I played with as a child:
The story is told using inter-level snippets of text, which just slightly correspond to the level design which follows. It’s slightly corny stuff, the tale of a boy, a girl and a robot they find and how they get on, but it’s the right scale of plot for a flash puzzle game - reading walls of text between levels would kill the atmosphere entirely.
And what an atmosphere. The game practically crackles with an air firstly of young love, and later impending tragedy. The relation between level design and plot is a genius touch, the emotional impact of which cannot be overstated. Towards the end of the level set I felt anguish at completing the puzzles, given what they represented to the plot.
If I had to offer one criticism, it would be that an empty cog left unused in the solution, occasionally symbolic of a third person in the room, is the gaming equivalent of Chekhov’s gun - you want to find a use for it, especially as turning it counts towards the high-score turn counter. Even once you’ve realised the significance of the plot device, it feels wrong. Perhaps giving each empty cog a single lonely heart to align would work.
Overall though, the game is a huge success, earning a level of gravitas which avoids feeling a little sterile in the way ‘One Chance’ for instance did for me. Apparently what I’ve played is far from the finished item, so I’ll be interested to see where it goes.