You can easily find critics pointing their fingers at the gaming industry, bemoaning stalled innovation and the absence of creative risks. And the same critics will often point to indie developers as shining examples of developers who do bring innovation to their games. Regardless of whether that critique is justified, Where is my Heart? is indeed a shining example of the creative power you can find with indie developers.
Where is my Heart? comes to you courtesy of the creative minds at Die Gute Fabrik, and is based loosely around the events a team member experienced when he got lost in the woods with his parents once. And this premise really is at the core of the game, even though the game features next to no story at first glance. You're simply playing as a family of three monsters, trying to get home to the Heart Tree. But if you research the premise of the game a little, it will make more sense when you play it, and some of the hidden, underlying story elements will become more apparent. It's very subtle, but it works quite well.
But even if you don't pay attention to the light story, the presentation of the game still holds up very well. It has a very stylish retro look that suits it nicely. Combine that with a soundtrack that's used quite effectively, and you have a game with solid presentation that manages to work around the game's own limitations. The only slight blemish is that the soundtrack can become repetitive at times. The main gameplay mechanic is also an important part of the presentation. Where is my Heart? is trying to make you feel lost and disoriented by applying what the developer calls the Comic Panel effect. Basically, each level is a small, isolated stage where you have to solve a few puzzles and get all three monsters to the end. But visually, the game breaks up into small boxes, so you can only see a limited part of the level, and the boxes are mixed around.
While this may sound like a recipe for frustration, most of the time it manages to make traversing the level an interesting puzzle in its own right. There are times when it frustrates, but they're thankfully uncommon. This puzzle aspect is also aided by the special abilities the three monsters can use from time to time. While all three augment the game well, the most interesting is also the one that's roughest around the edges; that is, the ability to manipulate the aforementioned panels, both by moving them and by being able to jump between them.
While it's certainly a great idea, the implementation of moving between the panels unfortunately doesn't offer a lot of precision, which can lead to frustration. When it works, it's a delight to use, but it's often hard to line up the way you want to travel, and you don't need to miss the mark by a wide margin to die.
It's good then that death isn't much of an obstacle in the game. Each level is relatively small and played in isolation from other levels, and death sees the character respawning at the starting point of the level. You're then good to try again without being penalised further. This also makes it more appealing to explore and collect the hearts that are lying around the level. When you're done with a level, you're given a score, though what you're actually scored on is hard to figure out.
As such, Where is my Heart? doesn't have a lot of replay value. It can be fun to come back to the different puzzles, but you will have completed all of the original content that the game has to offer in two hours or so. It's decent value considering the price, but nothing outstanding.
Despite this, I will still recommend Where is my Heart? to anybody looking for a good puzzle game. Most of the time, it's a lovable and original experience, that plays like a work of passion. It has a few rough edges, but it remains a great example of the creativity you can find amongst small developers like Die Gute Fabrik.