Developer: Armature Games
Publisher: Armature Studio LLC
Reviewed On: PS4
Release Date: 13/07/2021
Reviewed By: Keith Lavelle
Review Rush was kindly supplied with a review code.
Where The Heart Leads is a bit of an odd cookie in terms of what it is and what they say it to be (It will make sense soon).
A large earthquake rumble awakes you during a storm. Everyone in the house is awake. It was not an earthquake that caused the house to shudder; it was a giant sink hole in your backyard.
Whit Anderson and our protagonist approach the sinkhole with his family, only to find their dog has fallen in and is trapped on a ledge. Whit makes a lift from a bathtub and a pulley system and venture in to the sinkhole to save the family pet. It works. Almost the dog is saved, however, Whit falls into the sinkhole that seems for an eternity. When Whit hit the bottom, he has no way to get out, all he can do is journey further in. As he wanders down in the deep underworld, the sinkhole has made Whit will contemplate his life and the major events that he has been through.
Where The Heart Leads is a story about one man and his life, the decisions made, the good times and the bad. With a well written deep narrative.
The gameplay for Where The Heart Leads is simple, it is more visual novel than anything else. As Whit remembers parts of his life, you as the player will have access to the current area you are remembering. Here you are free to talk to the people in this area in any order you like, to discover more about what is happening. There are simple puzzles to solve like where is X or where do I get what Y wants. The game does a good job of signposting.
There will be choices to be made during most of the narrative.The choices made will not really change the outcome of the story as Whit’s life is already preordained. As he is reliving his past, he is already married and has kids so regardless he will end up where he is now. The choices will give a slightly new dynamic to interactions and there will be different dialog.
The thing that struck me about the gameplay in Where The Heart Leads is actually the care and attention to the narrative that is taking place. Along with the overall impact of a man having his life flash before his eyes, with nowhere to go he is reliving what has happened to him. He has not given up, but the doubt that he will make it home is there.
Here is where the game gets a little muddy. This is a quote for the game itself from the official website. “In this strange world, constantly shifting like the stops and starts of a dream, Whit bears witness to the story of his life and gains the power to change it.”
From this quote, I was expecting an out-of-body experience of the metamorphic with Whit’s life. However, it is reliving the life of a man who feels he is going to die. The developers however, do a great job of a magical place with the world Whit is currently in morphing and changing after a memory, giving a dream like feel to the game. This does not take away from the experience what so ever.
While reviewing Where The Heart Leads before launch the folks over at Armature where very responsive to issues found while it was being reviewed. The biggest one was the font size, they fixed this with a day one patch as it was way too small. For this, I applaud Armature for their dedication to their game.
Overall, Where The Heart Leads is a trip down memory line though the eyes of one man. Looking back over his life and commenting on his choices. I really enjoyed the story. It is not what I was expecting, as it was in short Whit’s life. However, this is definitely a labour of love and this can be seen with the narrative.