REVIEW / Else Heart.Break() (PC)

 

It has been a rare occurrence for me to come across a game that leaves me scratching my head in bewilderment from the very beginning, but Else Heart.Break() from developer Erik Svedang -with the assistance of the Nordic Game Program -has managed to do just that.  Svedang is the creator of such games as Blueberry Garden and Clairvoyance, which launched to critical acclaim, yet this latest entry to Svedang’s library of titles may have been more of a bite than he was prepared to chew.  In this point-and-click adventure, it is up to you to meet new people, learn the lay of the land and try to stay out of trouble.  You quickly learn that the world is more complex than you initially thought and being able to write computer code will make the difference in your success in this new city or just becoming another statistic.

 

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The city of Dorisburg is fairly large with many places to visit and explore.

 

Set on the fictional island of Dorisburg, you take of the role of Sebastian, a young man who has set out on his own to make his mark in the world.  After getting a call about a job that he may or may not have applied for, Sebastian agrees to take a boat ride from his home and start this new mysterious job and prove that he can make it on his own.  As you make your way around the island, you meet a young girl to whom you are immediately attracted. You feel if you can get better at programming, then maybe she will give you the time of day.

Not only will becoming a better programmer help you look better in the eyes of your new love interest, but it will give you the ability to actually change the world around you.  The city is filled with all types of people who are just trying to survive. But behind the scenes, there is a devious group of individuals ruling the city who are intent of keeping their grasp on power at any cost.

 

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The city feels very alive and there are lots of people to interact with just for fun or to give you clues about where to go next.

 

Else Heart.Break() throws you into the game with no hand-holding whatsoever.  You land at the dock in Dorisburg after a short boat ride/intro to the game. From there it is up to you to talk to people in order to figure out where you need to go and what you need to do.  While this may be the type of game that will appeal to fans of point-and-click games, I found it immediately frustrating after I spent the first hour or so just wandering around.

There were no clues to lead you to your first destination and the conversations that I had with the few NPCs I initially came across didn’t do much in the way of helping me to figure out exactly what it was I was supposed to be doing.  I was able to find a map of Dorisburg as they are littered around everywhere. But unfortunately, the map was so archaic that I had a hard time even figuring out what the landmarks were.

 

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You will be tasked with writing actual code in order to solve puzzles and progress the story.

 

There are points in the game where you will actually have to write short sections of code in order to progress or to just discover a clue or item that you can use to proceed at a later time.  The title of the game is actually written in coding format which is a small clue as to how some of the puzzles in the game will play out.  If you have never written computer code before or aren’t interested in the least bit in coding then these sections will bore you to tears.

I only say this because as a web designer by trade, I know first hand that if you are not into writing code, you will have a hard time trying to figure out how to get past these sections; in fact, you won’t be able to proceed without heading to the Internet to find the solution.  Having to go outside of a game to figure out how to proceed inside a game, in my opinion, defeats the point of even playing the game.  Everything that you need to be successful at a game should be found in the game world, otherwise you may as well not be playing it.

 

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The game looks amazing and has a very unique visual style.

 

I will admit that the visuals in Else Heart.Break() are actually very stunning.  I don’t know how the team was able to pull off such unique and different visuals but the entire game looks like a living, breathing stained glass window.  The colors of the environments as well as the many characters are vibrant and colorful and appear to have been created with a lot of care and precision.  The character designs are unique and the many buildings, parks and cobblestone streets that populate Dorisburg are very interesting.

The one issue that I had with the design of the game is that often times, when making your way around the city, the areas are pretty dense. The camera angles are obscured by the many buildings, so you are forced to position the camera in a specific spot in order to see your character and be able to navigate to a place where you can get a better view of your surroundings. It doesn’t matter how beautiful Dorisburg is if you can’t see it.

 

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During conversations, you will be presented with several options to answer with, but you only get a short time to make your selection or the game will decide for you.

 

The music and sound effects in Else Heart.Break(), however, don’t measure up to how gorgeous the game looks.  The soundtrack wasn’t terrible but it didn’t do a whole lot to really immerse you in the experience either.  It was just OK and didn’t really feel that inspired.  There are sound effects such as the sounds of the tram making its way down the tracks as well as the many birds that fly around and the sounds of rain as it hits the cobblestone streets that did help to make the city come alive somewhat.

There was also no spoken dialogue. Conversations between the characters takes place through word balloons, but I guess that is better than just having text boxes filled with text to read.  Had a little more care been taken to ensure that the music in the game was spot on, I think that that would have only been a plus for those people who will be making a visit to Dorisburg in allowing them to feel like they are actually there.

 

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You can rotate the camera in 360 degrees so that you can thoroughly inspect your surroundings for clues and items.

 

Overall, the lack of a cohesive story is what sunk this game for me.  Maybe I missed something but I was never able to determine who it was that offered Sebastian the job over the phone in the beginning, what that job was and why he had to go to Dorisburg to get the job.  I addition, having to spend over an hour just wandering around and not coming into contact with any NPCs or events that moved the story forward just made my heart break at the lack of any real “game” in this game.  If you are into point-and-click adventure games that aren’t hand-holdy and are a fan of Erik Svedang’s earlier works then this game might be for you.  If not, then I would recommend you steer clean of this one for the time being.  Else Heart.Break() is available now on Steam for $24.99 but I can only recommend this game for the very ardently hardcore old-school adventure gamers out there.  If you are not this type of gamer, then save your money because you will most definitely be very disappointed.

 

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