We’re looking at three more recently ported games, with the lovely The Wild at Heart, the eagerly anticipated Death’s Door and the challenging platformer Mashto is Together.
The Wild At Heart (PS4)
The Wild At Heart launched earlier this year, but only recently made the jump to the PS4 and Switch. That’s a good thing, because this game by Moonlight Kids, published by Humble Games, is a terrific indie title that got us heavily invested in genres like crafting, which we rarely get captivated by.
Besides having seen its charming visuals through press releases and trailers before, I knew little about The Wild At Heart when I first started it up, so I was curious to find out about the gameplay behind its lovely hand-drawn exterior. Turns out it’s a narrative-driven puzzle adventure with crafting elements and a bit of Pikmin thrown in for good measure as well. You’ll even find a sprinkling of Metroidvania in there, though this isn’t an action game like you’d normally find in that genre.
Instead, The Wild at Heart is about two friends who run away from their childhood and end up in the Deep Woods, which turns out to be the home of a fantasy world filled with wonder that helps fuel a friendship – and it happens to be home to the Spritelings as well, tiny beings who help you solve the puzzles you come across and will fight enemies for you.
You can make Spritelings form bridges, clear paths and gather items, and different Spriteling types can perform different actions. You can’t have an unlimited amount of them at once, and your options (and thus your need to switch them around) grow as the game progresses. This isn’t just because of the Spritelings though – you’ll also come across items and equipment that will grant you new abilities. Some of them you’ll also craft, which is as easy as combining three items to see what new thing they might make.
The Metriodvania element mentioned earlier has to do with the fact that you’ll revisit previous locations regularly before you can move on with the story – which usually happens when you unlock another Spriteling type – bringing a natural sense of pacing and progression to your journey in the Deep Woods, which is keep to constantly show you new environments and creatures, which include the Guardians that play a big role in the story.
You’ll want to hide in your camp when darkness falls though, as any forest is scary in the dark and this one is no exception – monsters come out, so you’ll want to return to safety before that happens, even if it means having to postpone imminent progression until the next morning. Which, yes, can be a little frustrating in the short run. It’s always quickly forgotten though, as The Wild of Heart is a wonderful and gorgeous adventure tale that’s dripping with charm.
Death’s Door (PS5)
A few of us here have labeled Death’s Door “the Hades of 2021″, although that isn’t a comment about the gameplay or audiovisual style. It’s actually about the sense that here was another potential Game of the Year that they, as PlayStation owners, couldn’t play. Lucky for them, Devolver’s launched the PlayStation ports of the game just in time – and the acclaim for Acid Nerve’s action adventure on other platforms was entirely justified.
In the game, you control a reaper – the kind that goes out and collects souls. Things quickly take a bad turn though, and you end up under the tutelage of an old crow who’s looking to open the “Death’s Door” and needs your help. It’s an interesting premise that initially brings back memories of the Darksiders games in terms of tone, but you quickly realize that Death’s Door is much more gameplay-driven than pushed forward by its narrative – although, much like in Darksiders, you do run into plenty of interesting characters during your journey.
The twelve hour campaign unfolds from an isometric perspective with a beautiful art style that very effectively uses color to paint the different realms you traverse while chasing a soul-stealing thief and enter a reality that death has no dominion over. Scenes that are rendered in black and white, where you are the only character in color, are especially powerful in visually showcasing that you’re in a place that’s unlike what you’re familiar with.
Gameplay in Death’s Door was clearly inspired by the classic Legend of Zelda games, combining exploration and action – though in a far more atmospheric environment than Nintendo could ever paint on the old (S)NES technology. As you proceed through the story, you’ll also unlock more spells and weapons that will help you on your quest, and the fact that the world is all interconnected makes the world feel very much alive.
What helps is that the experience feels well balanced thoughout the adventure as well. Enemies provide just the right amount of challenge, and new abilities make you feel empowered but not overpowered. Combat is thoughtful too, but instead of hammering the attack button you’ll need to dodge first and strike when the time is right. Even though it’s hardly Dark Souls, combat feels skill-based and rewarding as a result.
Death’s Door features immaculate design, from great levels and characters to beautiful art work and music – and we imagine it’ll get a few GOTY nods this month.
Mastho is Together (PS4)
Originally developed and published on Steam by Kind Cat Games, Mastho is Together is now available on consoles as well thanks to Eastasiasoft, which is continuing their run of budget-friendly indie ports this year.
Although the titular Mastho in this challenging platformer just looks like a white rectangle – not too unlike something out of Thomas Was Alone – he’s actually a sugar-free marshmallow, though you’d never guess from playing the game. There’s no narrative here, but instead you’ll find 40 levels of precision-platforming where new mechanics are gradually introduced through features in the levels.
Mastho has a full skillset from the beginning though, and is able to jump, dash in mid-air and wall-jump. You’ll use these abilities and string them together in ever more complicated levels that regularly introduce new features – which include jump pads that launch you into the air (often into a spike on the ceiling above) and buttons that make walls disappear.
Although challenging, Mastho Is Together features an very attainable trophy collection and doesn’t require you to finish the entire game – though completionists will want to push on for level 40 as well. It’s a generic little title, but good fun for about an hour or two.