The following game was reviewed on an Xbox Series X and a Windows 10 PC.
A few weeks ago, a lovely little adventure game came out onto Game Pass that you might have missed out on. It is titled The Wild at Heart, and is developed by Moonlight Kids and published by Humble Games. The Wild at Heart boasts a colorful palette with well-done animation work and lovely music, but there is more to it than just its production values—there is a bit of depth to its world, combat, and puzzle-solving. And it all starts with the little things that follow you around called ‘spritelings’.
Where the Wild Hearts Are
The game follows the story of a young boy named Wake (and another little girl called Kirby), who runs from home and a father that are long stuck in the past. After running into the forest with his trusty personally designed vacuum thingamajig, he gets lost—his makeshift map being of no use—and is just about to lose hope until he is welcomed into the ‘Deep Woods’ by one of these tiny spritelings. There he meets a cast of characters who have lived in these woods for who knows how long, looks to restore the strength of the woods to protect the world from the dark forces it houses, and the player will learn more about Wake’s history.
Now if you have ever played the Pikmin games, you will know exactly what I am talking about. These spritelings follow Wake and Kirby around and are used to complete objectives and do your bidding, really. You can think of yourself as a captain in charge of a motley crew of adorable yet slightly confused crewmates. Because the kids can only do so much, you will need these spritelings to do heavy work and fight off plenty of baddies in your journey to restore the Deep Woods. I love this kind of gameplay as it plays almost like an easier real-time strategy game. You can lose your spritelings if you are not careful, and as you unlock different types of these little guys, you need to focus on who you can bring with you out in the woods and plan your route accordingly.
There is no dawdling either, as staying out too long will bring nightfall and with it those same dark forces called ‘The Never’ that will make your day just a bit miserable. As I really do not like being chased by things, I took a slower more methodical approach to progressing through the Deep Woods. Crafting items helps quite a bit, and the game does not feel like a survival game even with these mechanics. It is not a stressful game, though it can get a little intense at times. But I did feel like some puzzle-solving could have been done without the spriteling’s help. I am sure Wake and Kirby would have no trouble placing a pinwheel back onto its structure on their own, for example.
In my time with The Wild at Heart, I found myself encountering quite a few bugs. Some were not too bad, I had a few spritelings get stuck in an endless falling animation, and returning to and from the menu quickly fixed that. But I have also encountered more egregious bugs, where I have had to quit the game from the Xbox dashboard and sometimes have the audio cut in and out. Restarting the game never places me too far back from where I started, but the bugs were frequent enough to frustrate me. I have not encountered these issues when I played the Windows 10 version. And I was happy to see cross saves and achievements present, encouraging me to play even when I was out for a little while.
Wrapping Things Up
The Wild at Heart, even with the few frustrations I had, was a fun adventure game. Its story is not horribly depressing but keeps a somber mood of the hardships the two kids and the people of the woods face, and the gameplay is easy to get into. It is an excellent Pikmin-like adventure game that I recommend to everyone, and as of this writing, is available on Game Pass. Its charming art and 2D JRPG-like animation alone is worth looking at.