Fans of videogame products with multiple choices, listen, listen; after the success of games like Life Is Strange, Oxenfree or Detroit: Become Human comes a new indie title – much more niche – that makes the most of its potential narrative branches and player choices, Where the Heart Leads. The new video game by Armature Studio is a small pearl that you can try on PS4 or PS5 and that will undoubtedly know how to immerse you in a surreal and almost dreamlike narrative reality. If you are a lover of the genre and stories that take their time – and who are not in a hurry for anything or anyone – then this is the product for you. Where the Heart Leads it is a truly singular title: it is not the classic indie simple, short and painless, but it is a rather authorial work, designed only for a specific target.
It is a narrative adventure full of choices of all kinds, a small but overwhelming PlayStation exclusive that truly deserves to be lived. We find ourselves catapulted into the world of the very common Whit Anderson, a married man who lives with his wife, his two children and their little dog. In medias res, we find ourselves frightened by a storm that deprives Whit’s family of the nocturnal serenity they live in their small town. A gigantic chasm disfigures the land where the small family farm is located and it is chaos: their cub finds himself in the darkness of the chasm and the only solution is to go and save him. Once this save has been made in extremis – between unstable pulleys and objects that fall into the abyss one after the other – our protagonist finds himself immersed in a very strange underground setting, from which we do not know what to expect. This is where our journey begins, or rather the journey into the memories of the Anderson family. But now let’s go into the detail of our review of Where the Heart Leads.
An evocative and artistically pleasant journey
From the beginning of the video game – observing the chasm and the chasm beneath it – it is clear that we are facing a profoundly surreal experience. As players we find ourselves immediately catapulted into a world that screams suggestion: the cartoon style, very sweet but also melancholy, transmits it to us even before taking the first steps in the setting. The title Armature Studio allows us to quickly understand what the artistic and technical setting of the whole work will be, right from the first scene: very distant shots, chromatic aberration on the edges, noises of nature that are the only ones to keep us company, dialogues in which we (players) almost always respond. The dynamics and style fascinated us right away, both because a dreamlike indie is a videogame blessing that we have wanted for a while, and because we immediately noticed a not indifferent artistic care. Compared to the titles we mentioned in the introduction, the player’s eye is much closer to Oxenfree than to all the others.
This means that the identification does not derive from seeing everything closely, but from how much our gaze – almost omnipresent, as if we were a divinity – has the possibility of observing from afar, scrutinizing the movements of the characters and of the small town. The real protagonist of the whole narrative is the world of remembrance and the world of the future: our whole experience will be based on reviewing Whit’s past and what the future holds for him. Our role? Guiding his choices until the last second, scrutinize every detail and help him choose for his existence. Each dialogue has its value, each decision is important… and it really is.
The setting, the small and discreet town of Carthage, is the splendid background that accompanies a well-characterized protagonist, flanked by a succession of secondary characters who really know how to be loved and how to be appreciated. Unexpectedly, the whole world of Where the Heart Leads it is created in an impeccable way: the small shops, the neighbors, the Anderson family itself are a real ecosystem that speaks to us and succeeds in a convincing way. Alongside Whit we will find ourselves judges of a world in constant change, capable of molding itself at our touch (and crumbling under our “wrong” decisions). Basically, this product does not tell us the stories of the characters we have mentioned so far, but tells us about the difficulty of being human in doubts, pursuit of one’s happiness and the purpose of one’s life. It is a game full of melancholy and with a – atrociously – universal look on the life of each of us.
The video game in question is an artistic pearl that addresses the broad spectrum of human fallibility but: would we recommend it to anyone? Absolutely not. The rhythms of branded production Studio armor they are deliberately and disproportionately slow, the narration takes all the time it can and it is obvious that this does not allow the product to be mainstream and easily usable. If you are looking for a deep – and not rushed – journey into the human soul, to the rhythm of choices and dialogue after dialogue, this is the right game for you. If that’s not what you are looking for, avoid embarking on a too winding road, which could end up asphyxiating you for more than 10 hours (the average length of the title). We conclude our review of Where the Heart Leads enthusiastic and happily moved, in the hope of having convinced the right slice of users to join this singular experience. We hope – and believe – that other interesting and special products like this one will be born from the PlayStation Indies initiative.