“In the glade, there grew a tree.
Merry, merry king of the woods was he.
Deep in his heart hid he monsters, three.
Dark secrets had this family.”
Where-is-my-Heart? is the debut game of Die Gute Fabrik.
The idea to make Where-is-my-Heart? finds its origins in a very personal experience I had with my mother and my father three summers ago. It was a sunny day on a weekend and we decided to go for a hike in the woods. The hike went well enough for a while, but after an hour or so we realized that somehow we’d completely lost our bearings. Stuck together and lost in this situation, we came to face each other’s negative personality traits. My father showed his anxiety and became increasingly bossy. While my mother responded to this as she had been doing for the 25 past years of her partnership – she turned to lamenting about her life and her existence. I, for my part, found myself trapped in well-worn patterns of regret, remorse, and disconnectedness. Here were three hurt children-at-heart, unable to understand each other and unable to break out of their predicament.
This game is basically a clumsy attempt to come to an understanding of myself and my family.
In Where-is-my-Heart? you can play the story of a family of monsters. They live comfortably in a tree in the woods until one day they lose their home and thus embark on a great adventure. It will take them down to the mushroom caves, even deeper to the lifeless crystal pools and back up into the mountains, as they try to find their home tree again.
I was interested in expressing the sense of being lost and without orientation via pure game mechanics. The approach I decided for, was to take the regular platform puzzle game and split up the screen into many separate panels (or little windows into the game world, if you prefer). The game then shuffles these panels and places them back into the screen at unnatural positions. Therefore, as a player you don’t know exactly where in the game world your monster is located. The challenge is on you to find your way.
This basic mechanic opened up many possibilities for puzzles. What’s more, even further game mechanics could be harvested from it. One of these is the Spirit-Rotation mechanic. Describing this mechanic is not easy, but I’ll give it a try (see it in the trailer above; it’s easier to understand). There’s a special player-controllable monster in the game called the Rainbow Spirit. It behaves like any little platform creature, being able to walk left and right, jump and fall. But everything changes when you press the shoulder buttons of your PSP or DualShock controller. Pressing L or R will rotate the world panels by a quarter circle. Each frame will end up in a neighbouring quadrant on the screen. If the Spirit is up in the air at the time of rotation it will keep flying, staying put in its quadrant, hovering above the panels that glide on underneath. After you’re done with your rotation, the Spirit drops back into the world. In a way, this mechanic therefore constitutes a non-linear form of travel, which sounds technical and hard to grasp, but basically it really gets your puzzle-brain to call out “yummy!” The rotation is really satisfying to play around with and we took great care and detail to make it feel just right. You’ll love it (I’m almost one hundred percent sure).
Each monster transforms into a super-being with special abilities: Antler Ancestor, the Rainbow Spirit of True Sorrow, and the Bat King. You have to help the monsters orientate themselves and find a way onward. The special abilities of each monster will help you solve unique puzzles: Antler side-steps into the Land of Fireflies where he can walk on the stars. Bat King opens a window to the Land of the Bat, a scary parallel world with secret platforms and hidden passages. The Rainbow Spirit can make the world panels spin round and round.
If you’d like to read more about the design and the development of ‘Where is my Heart?’ you can go to http://bushghost.blogspot.com/. Also, please ask and say if you have questions and comments. Last not least, enjoy the game.