REVIEW: ‘The Wild at Heart’ is Just so Lovely (XSX)

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The Wild at Heart - But Why Tho?

The Wild at Heart is an adventure game with puzzle elements developed by Moonlight Kids and published by Humble Games. Its 2D drawings in a 3D world are as enchanting as the Deep Woods it takes place in with an emotional story and a take on the Pikmin franchise’s little helpers I may actually enjoy even more.

Wake is getting ready to meet his best friend Kirby in the woods for a major, serious, multi-day operation with no likely return. But he gets lost and finds himself suddenly in a magical world, the Deep Woods, where he must reunite with his friend, befriend the Spritelings, and help the Order of the Greenshield prevent The Never from taking over the Deep Woods and the outer world. It’s a classic fantasy plot, and it reminds me of a favorite series of mine, Wildwood by Colin Meloy. But there is a deeper underlying plot as well involving Wake and dreams he keeps having of his father, who he left to begin this adventure. Together, there is intrigue, mystery, and a lot of emotion as the plot unravels.

The plot and characters in these types of games never seem to be the priority, but here, they are just as essential as the gameplay. Grey Coat, the leader of the Greenshield’s Willowvale Chapter, is the second character you’ll meet, and you will be immediately enraptured by his irony and wit, especially as you meet more and more of the odd folks who round out the game’s cast. From their ridiculous names to their straightforwardness to the layer of mystery constantly surrounding the whole lot, I found myself far more excited to read every dialogue box than I typically am in this type of game. I laughed out loud a number of times, rather unexpectedly.

The game is an adventure with puzzle elements. You and your Spriteling companions traverse the world together, and like Pikmin before them, you toss them to attack enemies on your behalf, build bridges, break down walls, carry objects, and more. They are perhaps a bit more durable than Pikmin, though certainly not invincible, and rather than a whistle to recall them, you must use your homemade vacuum device to suck them back near to you. But they’re adorable and effective, especially since you have a health bar that must be kept up with. A crafting system accompanies the need to forage for supplies and create healing and other items. Also, like Pikmin, your objective is to ensure you stay the nights in camps you will set up throughout the map. Unlike Pikmin, though, when night falls, you don’t automatically end your day and lose your Spritelings. Rather, The Never will begin to attack, and you must escape back to the nearest camp.

The mechanics are simple and entirely effective. I loved exploring the map, figuring out what my Spritelings could and could not do and where I would have to backtrack once I befriended new kinds with different abilities. The game became twice as exceptional once I reunited with Kirby, and you can switch back and forth between the two. They have slightly different capabilities but can both command the Spritelings, so asynchronous gameplay ensues where you must toss Spritelings back and forth to traverse various puzzles. They’re never too hard, but the time pressure of getting to a camp before nightfall adds just enough challenge.

The art style is just so lovely. It’s a simple 2D style, but the characters and world are rich with all different colors and shades and creative designs. The enemies are not terribly unique, but the Spritelings and the Greenshield members certainly are. The various locales throughout the game are classic video game locales (ice areas, fire areas, poison areas, etc.), but they have a unique color palette and atmosphere that I greatly enjoyed in each new environment. The sound design as well is simple but pleasant. I wish the characters’ sounds were a bit less abrasive. I feel like they’re almost yelling rather than making any kind of typical chibi sounds. But the background music is pleasantly subtle and atmospheric.

The Wild at Heart is a lovely game altogether. Its story and characters are just as charming as the gameplay is fun. There are a few nitpicks I can make about sound design and the Spriteling well menu having more tabs than it should need to, but they’re just nitpicks. It’s a touching and sharp game absolutely worth the dive into, especially for Xbox Game Pass members where it is currently available.

The Wild at Heart is available now on Xbox and PC via Steam.

The Wild at Heart
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

The Wild at Heart is a lovely game altogether. Its story and characters are just as charming as the gameplay is fun. There are a few nitpicks I can make about sound design and the Spriteling well menu having more tabs than it should need to, but they’re just nitpicks. It’s a touching and sharp game absolutely worth the dive into, especially for Xbox Game Pass members where it is currently available.