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Developer: Bent Spoon Games
Price: $2.99
Version: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPhone 4S

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
User Interface Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★½☆☆
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★½☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

Resting somewhere in-between Lucasarts-esque adventure game and visual novel is the awkwardly named Girl with a Heart of. Billed by the developers as an “interactive narrative,” it generally lacks the level of interaction and puzzle solving one finds in the classic point-and-click adventures it resembles, but at the same time it isn’t as passive as a typical visual novel. So what exactly is it, then?

Primarily, Girl with a Heart of is an exercise in choice and consequence. Throughout the player’s time as Raven, (the titular girl whose missing heart was replaced with an enchanted replica at birth), the unfolding narrative presents a series of situations that affect the game’s outcome. Will Raven keep secrets she’s been trusted with? Will she lie or tell the truth when faced with difficult situations that could potentially save or destroy the world? Bent Spoon emphasizes that this game should be played through more than once to experience the different potential outcomes springing from these choices. The decision to do so rests largely on how determined and patient someone is, however, since some design issues hamper the proceedings.

First, the interface relies on selecting dialog options by touch, but touching the line of text itself sometimes fails to highlights it. Generally, I found touching an inch or two to the right of an option to be my best bet, but even then there were no guarantees. It certainly doesn’t help that the text is fairly minuscule, even with the font size slider turned all the way up.

Likewise, the character menu often had me covering instructions onscreen with my fingers that only popped up once I was holding down a selection. Even then, figuring out what was what could still be a dicey prospect, despite the fairly basic looking interface. Certainly these issues may be lessened on the iPad, but that doesn’t help; developers need to keep all platforms they’re releasing on in mind. Honestly, it feels like they just yanked the mouse cursor off the PC-developed version, ported it over and called it a day without bothering to playtest it

Still, the game’s fairly unique visual style is at least noteworthy, with environments painted in a palate of lush, neon electric pastels. Just remember to turn the brightness up. If it’s not above the halfway mark, much will be lost to the detail-swallowing darkness.

It’s hard to firmly recommend Girl with a Heart of on iOS due to its clunky interface, slow pacing and the somewhat unrealized execution of a potentially intriguing premise. On the other hand, it does try to do something different than we’re used to, which is commendable. Is intention alone enough reason to pick up and experience this one? Much like Raven, it looks like potential players will have to make some hard choices. But in the end, I suppose that’s ironically appropriate.


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