Every now and again, a game comes out of nowhere and really surprises you. I’d not heard much about The Wild at Heart, but from the second I started to play, I could tell it was something special. There are plenty of genres and inspirations throughout. Breath of the Wild, Pikmin, and Where the Wild Things Are are just a handful of them. It’s a hand-drawn puzzler with Metroidvania elements and bags of charm. It’ll also pull at your heartstrings as your adventure takes you deep into the woods.
The Wild at Heart follows the story of two friends who escape their homes due to difficult childhoods. Starting off with a boy called Wave, you find yourself travelling into a mysterious place known as the Deep Woods. There, you’ll uncover a fantastical tale about Guardians, magic, and most importantly, friendship. As you understand more about the story and who these Guardians are, the Deep Woods open up. It’ll make you utilise the most important aspect of the game: the Spritelings.
The Wild at Heart: The Spritelings are key
These tiny creatures help you to move onto new areas and solve puzzles to help you progress. Spritelings also fight enemies, and discover various treasures and items. You start to gather a small army of the little fellas, and by commanding them, you can launch them to build bridges, gather cogs and mechanical parts, burn tumbleweeds, and clear poisonous paths. You can choose how many of each kind of Spriteling you have at any one time. It is also easy to switch between types with the click of a button.
The Spritelings are the key to progression in The Wild at Heart. You may start off with few abilities, but as new areas open up, they can be used in a multitude of ways. Not only do you have the Spritelings to help you along the way, there are also certain pieces of equipment that help you gather scrap to craft new items. The Gutbuster is a vacuum cleaner-type item that hoovers up scrap and blue orbs to help spawn new Spritelings. There are tons of items to be found in The WIld at Heart that can be used to craft bombs, new equipment, and more.
Crafting and exploration
If you think about how recipes are created in Breath of the Wild, it’s quite similar to how things work here. Choose three items and see if they can possibly craft anything. You’ll be given a brief description, and once a new item is made, it unlocks the recipe in your inventory. There’re a fair few combinations, and trying to find them all is part of the fun. The Deep Woods are a fun place to explore, with plenty of secret passage ways and opportunities to progress through the game.
You may find quite often that you’re re-visiting the same place a number of times. However, once you’ve got enough Spritelings or have found a new type, a pathway opens up and sends you on another adventure through the woods. Visually, it is gorgeous. The hand-drawn art style feels very similar to that of Maurice Sendak. The different environments are beautiful, and the weird and wonderful Guardians and creatures make The Wild at Heart a game you’ll love to get lost in.
The Wild at Heart: Avoiding the dark
One of the mechanics of Wild at Heart takes its cue from another source of inspiration. When night falls in Dying Light, things get a lot worse. Here, creepy monsters start to populate the Deep Woods, so heading back to camp and sleeping until morning is the safest option. Night time seems to come round quite quickly, and it often became a pain to have to return to camp when I was on the cusp of uncovering something new.
The Wild at Heart is a gorgeous puzzle-platformer that wears its heart on its sleeve. Using the various Spritelings in inventive ways will keep you occupied, and commanding an army can provide some tense encounters. If they get eaten or lost in the wild, you can find seeds to hatch new ones, but it can become a bit annoying when you have to keep returning to a shrine to do so. Still, I had a great time exploring the Deep Woods and finding out about a rich lore that exists there. The story of the kids is interesting, and helps to give them a reason to be where they are. If you’re after a smart indie title with a beautiful score and a wonderful design, The WIld at Heart is a good choice.
The Spritelings are a great mechanic
Night time comes around too quickly
Replenishing Spritelings can become laborious