These Robotic Hearts of Mine Game

These Robotic Hearts of Mines Tells a Bittersweet Tale with Challenging Puzzles

Title-wise, These Robotic Hearts of Mine is a mouthful; also, we will be shortening it to TRHM for most of this review for everyone’s sanity. But beyond the long title, TRHM is also quite a charmingly sweet, fun, and ultimately heartbreaking title –just the way the developers wanted it to be. The game itself is a simple set of repeating puzzles that are quite tricky to play, but satisfying to solve. The most important factor of this game however, is the underlying story –told in a series of short lines in between stages. This parsed narrative eases you in slowly into the background story of the game, and at the very end, with the final “puzzle”, it reaches a most sudden and heart-rending resolution.

Getting Hearts Upright

For a sub-heading, we really are getting literal here. The goal of the game’s puzzles is for the player to turn all the hearts onscreen to a right-side-up position. The puzzles contain a series of gears with hearts connected to one or two gears. Turning a gear will rotate the hearts connected to it. At times, the puzzles are pretty straight forward and all you will have to do is to turn specific gears a few times. In the harder puzzles, players will have to combine the use of several gears to group up or split apart clusters of hearts in order to get them into the right orientation.

While it all sounds simple, the actual puzzles are quite cleverly made –and the fact that the game tells you the minimum number of steps required for each puzzle certainly adds up to the replay value of the game. Sure, one can probably get past any stage given any amount of time and any amount of moves. But to ensure that each turn of a gear is a planned move towards a specific goal is a challenge that many completionists will certainly be excited about.

Patience Versus Perfection


In terms of time, there are no limits in the game. You can finish each puzzle at a leisurely pace and not worry about getting any penalties. The important factor is the number of moves you make. Each turn of a gear counts a single move –and a single wrong move can be quite costly to fix. Say you accidentally turn a gear before all the needed hearts are connected to it –this means you leave one heart that is behind by one-quarter rotation left on another gear. To fix that, you will have to turn a gear at least three more times before you can set things back straight. More often than not, it will take around 3-5 moves to fix a single issue.

The good part is that once you are finished solving a stage, you can come back to it at any time to retry the puzzle. And you will get an unlimited supply of retries in this game. The formula for getting things right (without having to consult a guide), is to experiment with the puzzles until you find a basic solution and then working from there. The game will indicate the lowest number of moves per stage on the user display so you have  set number of moves to aim for.

Considering the game’s puzzle layout, it is rare that you would be short by 1 or 2 moves from the target score. Often times, the difference is about 4-7 moves, which is an indication that one (or two) of the steps you did were likely to be unnecessary. As long as you keep replaying the same puzzle over and over again (and of course, improving your moves); you will eventually reach the target score.

A Tearful Tale

For a game that never shows the characters involved, the narrative sure does a great job at fleshing things out. The story is split up into several short lines that tell of a simple boy-meets-girl scenario. Things get a little interesting when the two find a robot in the middle of a forest –and this very same event is what begins a series of unfortunate situations that lead to the game itself.

At first, it appears that the story is simply a background tale that the developers have placed into the game –at this point, the player feels as if the story and the puzzles are two completely separate things. The only factor that connects the two is the theme of the story (which is basically a love story) and the visual elements of the game (which are metal gears and hearts). But as the tale unfolds, and the events turn for the slightly surreal, a player cannot help but wonder, what does the game have to do with the characters?

The focus on the concept of hearts, getting things fixed, and placing everything in the right order draws a very literal parallelism between the game’s puzzle mechanics and the events told in the story. Halfway through the game, between the challenging puzzles and the curiously written storyline, the player finds oneself town between focusing on getting the puzzles done right (with the least moves possible), or simply getting past the stage to be able to read the next line of the tale. This player based conundrum takes TRHM on a whole new level of gaming –more into the genre of interactive art.

For those of you who have yet to finish the game, we suggest that you skip this part of the review as the discussion delves further into the very end of the story and the game itself. To ensure a spoiler-free experience, jump straight to: The Verdict for a conclusive summary of the game. With that said, feel free to continue.

At the very end of the game, the players are faced with an impossible puzzle. And this one is obviously impossible because the game’s layout is practically broken –none of the hearts are connected to the gears. This means that you cannot rotate even a single heart. Officially, this final puzzle is not counted, and as long as you make it this far, you should consider yourself as having finished the game. But beyond this strange end-stage scenario is the conclusion of the narrative; a tragic ending that completely leads the boy and girl completely shattered and beyond repair.

The bitterness of the story’s ending –with the girl obtaining a robotic heart that can no longer be returned to normal, is made even more poignant when taken in contrast to the lightness of the story at the very beginning. And when faced with the impossible puzzle, players face the same situation as the boy in the story. The mirroring of the boy’s efforts to create hearts for robots with the player’s efforts to solve each of the puzzles becomes clearer and clearer with each stage –more specifically each new narrative. At the end of it all, however, the story still tries to deliver a lesson to be learned; the importance of communication, acknowledgement, and respect for one another –especially for those in relationships. One can have a long discussion about how finding the robot, the boy’s tunnel-vision, or the girl’s presumptions have led to this sad end, but the important thing is that players recognize the true message of the story.

The Verdict

The thing that stands out about Alan Hazelden's These Robotic Hearts of Mine is that the game is well-thought of and carefully planned. Much like figuring out the solutions for each of the puzzles, Alan has created a game that he knew how to make before he even began. This is evidenced in the consistency of design, narration, flow, and overall composition and credit should also be given to the open source flash punk engine Alan used. Bottom line: this is a great game, and you should not pass up a chance to play it. If solving puzzles is not your thing, TRHM allows players to skip ahead and read the story without having to solve the puzzles (though we highly suggest doing the puzzles if you want the full experience). We give this game a metallic heart’s 90/100.