Remember Lemmings? The dopey green-haired creatures in blue night gowns that would rhythmically walk across your CRT screen straight into whatever perils lay ahead are synonymous with old-school PC gaming. Since then, few games have attempted to modernise that unique puzzle formula where you had to remove obstacles, build bridges, and set up routes to ensure the safety of your mindless minions.
From the magical minds at Rogue Sun, a studio comprised of several former Lionhead Studios developers (of Fable fame), and in the spirit of Lemmings of old, Tin Hearts is a narrative puzzle game where you lead a battalion of little wound-up mechanical toy soldiers over 50 vibrant yet perilous levels; kitchens where giant humans chop up food, bedrooms filled with toy cannons, and brassy basements filled with clanging pipes and other steam-spewing dangers–every domestic space gets turned into an imaginative stage for you to safely see your soldiers through.
As the saying goes, "No mechanical wind-up toy will be left behind," and you achieve this by carefully laying out the path ahead of them. These soldiers don't have much in the way of initiative, you see, so it's up to you to direct their path away from danger. This can be as simple as laying down an angled block to alter their course away from deadly hazards, or by setting up trampolines, cannons, and blow-up balloons to lift them to higher ground.
Tin Hearts doesn't take place in any old home either, but the home of genius inventor Albert J. Butterworth in an alternative-history steampunk-inspired Victorian house. That means strange mechanised things are afoot, and the house is filled with clockwork spiders, little robotic guards, and terrifying jack-in-the-boxes who leap from their cubic enclosures to gobble up your soldiers.
But there's a twist here. See, sometimes to clear an obstacle, you need a brave tin soldier to break ranks. To that end, you'll be able to take control of individual soldiers, breaking them free from the line so that they can run off and change things around the stage. Suddenly, the game takes on a 3D platformer dimension, as that soldier will face his own challenges as he races against the steady march of his comrades to clear the path ahead of them.
At other times, the game feels almost a bit like Dungeon Keeper, as your spectral hand manipulates and optimises elements of the stage for the little people marching around on it (minus all the slapping and bullying you'd impose on your demonic minions!).
Tin Hearts is a real looker too. The world has the feeling of a beautiful toybox that's been broken into by a dev team with a penchant for fairytales, and the soldiers–propelled by the little brass keys turning in their backs–are richly detailed and animated. Suffice to say when something inevitably goes wrong and one of your men gets smashed into dozens of coggy pieces, it'll hit you right in the heart.
Tin Hearts marches onto PC (Steam, Epic Games Store, GOG, Utomik), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox on April 20, 2023. You'll find all the links via the Wired Productions Store. If you just can't wait to get tinkering, you can sign up for the closed beta, which runs February 10-14.
To get involved with the community and stay up to date, you can join the official Discord, follow Tin Hearts on Twitter, or wishlist it on Steam.
A magical mini-world from some of the best imaginations in gaming awaits…