148Apps Network Post
Developer: Alan Hazelden
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPod touch 4

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

I suppose the best thing a game could be called is ‘interesting’. These Robotic Hearts of Mine certainly qualifies; it first intrigued me with its pixel art and claims of telling a story about a boy and girl in love, who one day find a robot in the woods that changes their relationship. The story is all told in short text-based vignettes before each level. The actual gameplay involves rotating gears in order to get all the hearts in a level oriented upright.

The best feature, and one other puzzle games need to implement, is a unique one. When a level is completed, it shows the performance of other players in the world on a bar graph based on number of moves made. The bigger the bar, the higher the percentage of people that solved the level in that number of moves. It’s equally fascinating as much as it is emotional. Getting a better than average score? I am genius, hear me roar. Finding I made a score that’s way higher than everyone else? Uhhh, we don’t need to tell anyone about that. If anything, it’s the most compelling and unique aspect of the game, more than the narrative that seems to drive the game.

See, part of the problem is that only self-interest drives the story forward, since each level is unlocked right from the word go. The narrative can be experienced simply by going to each level and seeing the text before each one. There’s nothing story-related revealed after each level. When the puzzles started to get challenging halfway through and I wanted to see how the story progressed, I just opened and quit each level. Doing so is the equivalent of drawing outside of a maze to the end in order to solve it, and the lack of any kind of artificial construct to keep me from doing this feels like an abuse of gaming convention. It’s almost ironic considering how important the art and story seems to be to the experience that the most compelling element is based off of game performance. Sometimes the chase is better than the catch, and while the puzzles aren’t ‘bad,’ they by themselves without chasing story revelations aren’t interesting enough to keep me coming back.

So while These Robotic Hearts of Mine is indeed interesting, per se, it feels like it needs to embrace gaming structure a bit more. Don’t be afraid to make the rats chase the cheese; don’t just give it all to them up front. Of course, that comparative player performance feature is really quite nifty, and is actually probably the best thing about this game. Is it perhaps harsh to criticize a game’s story mechanics in the way I am? Perhaps. But when it is such an important element, I need to talk about it, and I found it to be a lacking element in this game. Without the story, what’s here is just a decent, but not all that remarkable, puzzle game.

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