Pine Hearts

Pine Hearts

Pine Hearts is a short and cozy exploration game with a small emotional story to guide you along the way.

From an isometric perspective, you control a cute and colorful nugget character as he wanders the tranquil world of Pine Hearts Caravan Park, meets various NPCs and helps them with their tasks. The map is rather vast and the game is heavily focused on exploring it, as there are no quest markers (neither to distinguish the NPCs that can give you a quest from the rest of the NPCs, nor for the items you are required to fetch), nor a detailed map of all paths possible. Available is only a top-level map of the game world that displays the regions, but not the connections between them or any other details such as paths or points of interest.

However, the game is split into distinctive regions, and accessing them requires obtaining a specific ability, which is unlocked by gathering enough “droplets”. These can be obtained not only by completing quests but also by interacting with various objects in the game world or simply collecting them from your path, as you explore the maze-like environment. Without a map, navigating the world is not exactly trivial (especially for those without a clear sense of direction like me), as you have to project the zones visited in your mind and obviously remember their location, together with which NPC gives you which quest. Unfortunately, only the quests belonging to the main storyline are shown and not the side quests (which are encountered in much higher numbers than the former).

While I could think of several QoL features that I would like to see in the game, I’m deeply appreciative of how much effort was put into accessibility options. There are several color palettes to choose from, and the interactable objects (including the NPCs) are brightly colored to distinguish them from the muted colors of the environment. To be honest, this was extremely helpful to me during the end game (even if I don’t have any disabilities) for gathering those last difficult-to-find droplets required for the hardest achievement of the game: gathering all 1500 of them. While roughly 1300 are obtained through quests and from wandering around, the last ~200 come from object interactions or other areas reachable only after unlocking all abilities. The map is also designed so that even the early zones contain areas accessible only with fully unlocked abilities, thus a full traversal through the entire map will be required for this achievement. I would have really liked to see from which of these zones I can still collect droplets, as opposed to wandering around aimlessly until I find something to interact with, but unfortunately, this information is not available to the player. The rest of the achievements are naturally unlocked as you play and complete quests. None of them are missable, as you can always return to the previous zones to obtain them and they’re color-coded based on the region they belong to, which is quite helpful.

Pine Hearts’ story is not the one that drives the gameplay forward, as it consists only of five miniature memories of the character and his father. However, they’re quite emotional and are bound to touch your heart, even if they’re short-lived. These memories, together with all the cute interactions that you can do with the objects in the environment and the colorful, positive visuals give the game a heartfelt, wholesome vibe. Pine Hearts is certainly a chill and enjoyable ride that will take you between five and seven hours to complete, depending on how much you like to dawdle, yet pretty expensive for the content that it offers.

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