Heartbound is a game that is trying to fill big shoes. From a quick glance at the game’s Kickstarter page, and even from the title of the game, it is clear the game is heavily inspired by the SNES classic Earthbound and modern indie classic Undertale. And that excites me beyond reason. For anyone who has played either of those games, they will be able to recount genuinely moving and exhilarating journeys. Games filled with hidden secrets, wondrous amounts of lore and an unforgettable cast. An incredible feat to pull off, yet one that developer Pirate Software, seem more than capable of.
The game is created in glorious 2D with a stunning art style, which again calls to the game’s forefathers. Character dialogue receives a charming portrait of each character with quirky anime-style animations. In short, the game is a true visual treat. But the attack on your senses doesn't stop there, as accompanying it is a well-crafted and immersive soundtrack. One particular highlight is the track Bitter Shadows. It is reminiscent of a Final Fantasy battle theme and befittingly used in the boss battle available in the demo.
As an RPG, Heartbound's combat system is entirely unexpected. The developers liken it to Warioware minigames, but in doing so I feel they do them a disservice. Whilst minigames can sometimes become annoying and repetitive, the boss battle at no point felt dull with a gradual difficulty curve being implemented. Whilst only two small variations of the minigames exist in the demo, the developers have stated that each combat phase will have four minigames, with a stretch goal increasing this even further to five.
One of the endearing ways the game will attempt to capture your heart is through its humor. Even from the small snippets available in the demo, I was laughing and chuckling as I played. And there are socks. For an undiscovered reason you can collect a variety socks in various, shall we say, er, states. From ‘stanky’ through to ‘tubular’, socks are hidden all around the levels for you to find and collect and be slightly disgusted at.
Heartbound's Best Friend
For those who like a cranial challenge, Heartbound looks set to be full of puzzles of differing nature and difficulty. The demo seems to be set in the early parts of the game, and thus none of them proves particularly challenging, but I would count on these becoming more bamboozling as the game continues. For those who like a head-scratcher, the developers have even included a cryptographical puzzle, for you to whet your appetite.
Lore, the protagonist, has a co-adventurer in the form of furry canine Baron. This anthropomorphized loveable creature seems to have a major part to the plot and already became my favorite character with his love of food and all things Viking (even his food is tiny axes!). Lore seems to have a rough family life and his one true dependable friend is none other than his dog. It seems a heartwarming, yet heartbreaking adventure is definitely on the cards.
Switch On, Switch Off?
The game currently, at the time of printing, has nine days left on Kickstarter and has been fully funded. Already two stretch goals have been reached and another is approaching fast which seeks to add even more value to any backing made. For console players, the developers have spoken about the possibility of a Switch release, if it makes sense. Having this game in a handheld format would make for commutes you would never want to end.
Considering how amazing the demo was to play, it seems prudent to spread the word about Heartbound and expose it to a wider audience. As is the nature of Kickstarter, some real gems can be overlooked amongst the many projects vying for attention. Even if you don’t pledge any money, just tweeting about the game, following it on Steam or Reddit can show support to the developers, for which they will be truly grateful. And if you want to play the demo beforehand to make up your own mind, you can do so here. You won’t regret it.