REVIEW: The Wild at Heart

An adorable Pikmin-like adventure! Just remember-the dark is bad!

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player
Genre: Action-Adventure
Platformer, Puzzle
Developer: Moonlight Kids
Publisher: Humble Games
Release date: May 19, 2021

Intro

To begin with, I suppose it’s confession time. I have never played the Nintendo-published game, Pikmin. I asked five of some of my friends if they’ve played the game before, a question I quickly realized may be a necessary perspective for this review. All of them replied that they tried Pikmin when they were younger, and that the game was unforgiving. I found videos of the little creatures screaming as you sent them hurdling to their deaths, as they were crushed helping you, as you threw them in the wrong spots- and so on.

The Wild at Heart is a Pikmin-like. You get fun little sprite friends that walk around behind you as you take them unknowingly towards their doom. They are adorable, and each time one perishes because of my own ineptitude I feel a twinge of sadness.

Admittedly, I am not sure if there is a story in Pikmin, or what the motivation of the space suit wearing man is. In The Wild at Heart though, there is an over-arcing narrative full of heart and love, and it’s one I knew would instantly soften me within the first ten minutes of play.

Captioned Image Example.

Intro

To begin with, I suppose it’s confession time. I have never played the Nintendo-published game, Pikmin. I asked five of some of my friends if they’ve played the game before, a question I quickly realized may be a necessary perspective for this review. All of them replied that they tried Pikmin when they were younger, and that the game was unforgiving. I found videos of the little creatures screaming as you sent them hurdling to their deaths, as they were crushed helping you, as you threw them in the wrong spots- and so on.

The Wild at Heart is a Pikmin-like. You get fun little sprite friends that walk around behind you as you take them unknowingly towards their doom. They are adorable, and each time one perishes because of my own ineptitude I feel a twinge of sadness.

Admittedly, I am not sure if there is a story in Pikmin, or what the motivation of the space suit wearing man is. In The Wild at Heart though, there is an over-arcing narrative full of heart and love, and it’s one I knew would instantly soften me within the first ten minutes of play.

Story

While I understood a bit of what to expect gameplay wise jumping into The Wild at Heart, the story was up in the air. Luckily, it establishes itself very quickly, and lets you know that you’re in for something involving most easily described as parental issues. Our initial playable character is Wake, a pre-teen passionate about running away from home. The scene setting is phenomenal, and immediately establishes Wake as a boy who loves to play games and who lives alone with his father. There is unfinished laundry, discarded bottles and soda cans in the living room, a past due bill, and trash scattered about. Wake comments on his living state, and mentions that “he’s gone”, and Wake writes a note stating that he’s leaving and that “he probably won’t come looking for me anyway”.

I was anticipating a puzzle game involving colourful companions, but the themes of abandonment, running away, loneliness, and familial issues intermittently come up in the narrative. Luckily, the game doesn’t lose any of its fun despite this.

The true adventure begins once Wake departs from his home. He is to meet his friend Kirby for their big plan- and promptly gets lost in the woods. Luckily, he is found by a plucky looking little sprite friend, that guides him along to an individual named Grey Coat- who tells us all about The Grove, the Deep Woods, the Green Shields, and The Never. Obviously, I won’t give too much away, but there is a force you are working against in the game, and annoying one that makes venturing out at night during the game’s day/night cycle a real chore sometimes.

Still, the narrative finish is one that I would say is ultimately worth the occasional struggle. While I wasn’t necessarily surprised by any piece of it, the warmth and familiarity was still something that I enjoyed, and the final battle is something I felt satisfied to finally get through.

Graphics

Bright, smoothly-animated, and simply designed, The Wild at Heart is beautiful. Everything is colourful, and each environment is different. Deep Woods, Frostfields, Sunken Grotto- each one is different, with obstacles and puzzles set up throughout. Moreover, even in the Spritelings themselves are diverse enough to easily differentiate. Each has a separate colour and a varying silhouette, making it easy to tell them apart when you switch between them even at a minor glance.

Gameplay

So essentially, you get these sweet little guys and you throw them around so that they can do stuff for you! That’s the basis of Pikmin, at least, and The Wild at Heart did this in a way that I deeply enjoyed. After all, the Spritelings aren’t the only mechanic present. Sure, there are five of them to choose from and all of them have a different function and abilities, but so do Wake and Kirby! Both have different things they can use to pull the Spritelings closer to them, to manipulate windmills, or to drain the magic from certain types of items. Everyone in the game has use, and sometimes, figuring out the proper Spriteling combination to solve certain puzzles was genuinely tricky! Points of interest are marked on the map, sure, but it can be hard to find out how to put a certain type of Spritelings one place to perform one feature, how to part Kirby and Wake, how to manage to get to a place without your Spritelings dying, and so on.

Did I mention something called The Never earlier? Good! They’re the main, eldritch antagonist, and a massive thorn in the side of anyone out past dark. Remember – the dark is bad! There’s a time feature to the game, and staying out past dark and not sleeping until morning means The Never can manifest and not only hurt you- as each player character has health- but to potentially destroy your Spritelings, forcing you to purchase more. In order to do so, you must get the “pips” of the corresponding Spriteling type, as well as a special Spriteling currency. This can get frustrating at times, and did for me more than once, but it inspired a sense of stubbornness rather than the quit-this-game-forever sort of rage.

Verdict

While I ran into a few bug-related hiccups, The Wild at Heart is a well-crafted game that I thoroughly enjoyed. There’s something about stepping into the shoes of a bright-eyed kid to experience all this magic and a solid “villain” to be defeated that just hits right, sometimes. Every once in a while, I just want a nice, good-versus-evil story.

Written by
Bigshot
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1 comment
  • I’ve just completed this and agree with your assessment. It has a few annoying elements to it but is a super fun game overall.

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