Heartbeats: Best Puzzler of the Year So Far

heartbeats 1Recently I played the indie iOS game Heartbeats, developed by Kong Orange. I was looking for a little sci-fi puzzler, and that’s exactly what this is – although “little” might be selling it short. Sure, it’s not a lengthy game, but it’s challenging and full of heart. It feels important somehow.

The game breaks up the story and puzzles by individual screens, each telling part of an old man’s story as he looks back on his life. It’s an intergalactic tale, good for my sci-fi itch. Every screen is beautiful with hand-drawn illustrations that help tell the story and are involved in the gameplay in some way, because each screen is also its own puzzle.

You interact with the illustrations to solve the riddles the game poses. Some are simple (not super easy, but simple) – like pressing an onscreen button at the right moments to decode a message – while others are head-scratchers that can take a long time to figure out.

One puzzle had me stumped for a good half hour, but once I figured out how to play with the illustration the right way – there was a hidden element I had missed many times – I knew exactly what to do. Solve one puzzle to unlock the next and learn more of the old man’s story.

heartbeats lastBecause there are so many different types of puzzles, the game remains engaging throughout. It’s also just challenging enough to feel very rewarding when you solve a tough puzzle. Rather than getting frustrated with difficult riddles, I just took a break and returned with a fresh perspective, which often proved to be exactly what I needed.

There was a time when I spent weekend mornings playing indie puzzle games (I even had a whole column about it on Population GO for a while), but it’s a habit I’ve mostly given up. Heartbeats has taken me back to that. If you’re looking for a sweet sci-fi puzzler, this is the one I recommend. If you want more info about it, check it out here.

— Ashley

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