Pine Hearts (Switch) Review

Pining Hearts.


The idea of loved ones passing away is one that I have had to experience too many times in the past few years. There are not too many games that deal with the concept of personal loss, so I feel that it is almost always a good thing when games try to send a message to players to remind them that they’re not alone. Pine Hearts, for the most part, tells a beautiful story, unfortunately through a game plagued by significant frame rate issues.

Pine Hearts is an isometric game where you play a young camper named Tyke, who has returned to Pine Hearts years after the loss of his father. An old friend welcomes Tyke, and then after given a hammer and tasked with clearing a path to the cave, a world begins to open up for exploration. In the same vein as classic Zelda titles, Tyke gains new abilities and items over the course of the game, which allows him access to new areas. This is all done in a calming, non-urgent manner as there is no combat to be found.

The game is presented as an explorative puzzle game where you utilise your tools to unearth new areas to explore. My experience with the game is that the tools you find along the way literally just unlock new paths, with minimal thought to how the tools themselves could be utilised in Tyke’s world.

Despite the game promising a focus on puzzles, I only encountered two of what I would consider to be puzzles through the whole game. The rest of the game was made up entirely of fetch quests, and mostly pushed my ability to remember where everything was. Any time I entered a new area, my hopes would rise that I would be attempting to push my frontal lobe, only for the locals to ask me to fetch more wood, or catch bees, and so on. It became quite laborious the longer the game went.

Traversing the world is mostly a pleasant experience. Pine Hearts is a bright and colourful place, and moving about feels very responsive. It is rather easy to get lost in the world though, which can make the aforementioned fetch-quests even more of a bog. It could be improved if you could zoom out and see more of the world, or have a more detailed map in Tyke’s journal.

The NPCs of Pine Hearts are written really well, firing witty quips that could make the Paper Mario team take notes. While I enjoyed chatting to the NPCs to see what each one of the would say, I often felt that I might have connected more if the NPCs spoke to Tyke beyond their demands for firewood and soccer balls. While they do have witty banter, the conversations tend to end up with them asking a random stranger to go and collect stuff for them.

Where the game’s strength lies is in its dealings with the concept of loss. When completing exploring the world and completing quests for people, Tyke is awarded a number of tear shaped memory shards. When enough of these are collected, a memory is unlocked of Tyke’s childhood. Reliving these core memories of Tyke’s is the best part of the game. Each memory is specifically tied to an event that involved a young Tyke and his father before he passed away. 

Each memory opens up with a brief cinematic, and then you move child-Tyke through the memory. The memories start off innocent enough but become darker as you progress through the game. One memory had me tearing up quite a lot, and I could feel the grief that was felt by Tyke. However, this was quickly removed when this particularly harrowing memory was immediately followed by a dancing, happy Tyke on my screen. Some tweaks to how Tyke is feeling after experiencing a memory could give these scenes the extra impact it needs.


The game also has a LOT of accessibility options. It includes your more common features such as a dyslexic friendly font, high contrast mode, simplified controls and colourblind modes. It also includes a colour blocking mode, where interactive objects are all highlighted while the rest of the world is in subdued colours. The game also has you input these settings before you can go on your adventure, which seems like a no-brainer way of starting a game.

Pine Hearts explores the concept of loss with respect, dignity and with a kind touch. I especially enjoyed talking to the people of Pine Hearts, as well as the colourful world to explore. The respect given to those with impairments is also to be commended. However, the lack of puzzles and the repetitive fetch quest nature of the game does pull back on its potential. I think the team at Hyper Luminal Games have a special talent for broaching difficult topics, and I look forward to what they will bring us in the future.

Rating: 3.5/5

Brad Long

I yell about pro wrestling, ice hockey and rugby league directly into the internet.

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Brad Long