To imagine Pikmin with a Above the garden wall skin and you get The savage at heart, a recent game from developer Moonlight Kids, published by Humble Games. I hate to open a review by immediately making comparisons, but The savage at heart wears his inspirations on his sleeve, you can’t really talk about the game without mentioning all the different areas it draws from. The story of the game also centers around concepts of childhood and youth, so it ties all of those childhood inspirations very closely to its design. The game brings all of these together in a nice little package, however, and players will be pleasantly surprised at what they find.
At the start of the game, you play as Wake, a young boy who appears to be around 10 or 12 years old. You start in Wake’s basement, where you must collect your things to prepare for an adventure that Wake has planned with his friend Kirby, who is not there. After collecting your things, you go upstairs and have a snack in the kitchen. Here you learn that Wake intends to run away, either permanently, or at least for the day, and that Wake does not have a good relationship with this father. Wake then exits into the backyard where he retrieves one of his inventions: a leaf blower backpack that can suck up nearby objects.
This leaf blower is the unique centerpiece of the game. Almost all of the puzzles center around your ability to suck up objects from afar, be it objects, windmills, Spritelings, or others. things. The other playable character, Kirby, whom the game lets you swap out once you unlock her, gets an item that has a similar ability, though her item has a slightly different function.
After Wake leaves the yard, he enters the forest behind his house and quickly gets lost, although a small forest creature guides him to an area called “Deep Woods” where he meets an eccentric old man named Gray Coat. . Gray Coat tells him about a small town called The Grove, where he lives with a group of other people in the forest. At this point, Wake also acquires the ability to control small creatures called “Spritelings”, which he can use to collect items, build bridges, fight enemies, and more. These Spritelings are the in-game version of Pikmin, and at this point the game has given you most of the basic mechanics of the game.
The game is set in an open world, very similar to other 2D action-adventure RPGs, taken specifically from very traditional SNES RPGs, like Link to the past. It lets you run free around the world very quickly, giving you goals and tasks everywhere, and different areas unlock as you unlock different abilities. As you explore, you may find different types of Spritelings with different abilities, as well as Kirby, your friend with whom you have planned the adventure. As mentioned earlier, Kirby has similar abilities to Wake, but can sneak into small areas and also use his item to unlock certain areas that Wake cannot. Most puzzles in the world require you to use all three elements (Wake, Kirby, and the Spritelings) together to solve puzzles and unlock areas.
The game also has a day / night cycle that always runs, although the day and night don’t have too many differences apart from a demon called the “Nevergazer” who chases you and will kill you overnight. It is possible to do things at night, although it is better to sleep through the night. The day / night cycle actually adds a decent amount to the mood and experience, although I wish it would move a bit slower as the day can feel a bit too short, especially when you have to do things all over the map.
The artistic style helps to distinguish The savage at heart from its contemporaries, drawing much more art for children’s books and animation than more traditional styles of video games. You can easily see the similarities with shows like Above the garden wall, which I mentioned earlier, and also Gravity falls, but the detail of everything from line art to coloring to lighting indicates children’s books, especially books like Where the wild things are (to which the title of the game quite clearly alludes). The game is, quite simply, very enjoyable to watch, and the sound design and music combine well to create a very nice aesthetic experience that is quite unique compared to other comparable games.
I must note, however, a revolutionary bug that I encountered in the game. At one point, upon entering an area for the first time, the camera moves into the area to show something, interrupting the game and removing control. of the player. Once the camera shows what it needs to show, the game resumes, but the camera never backs up and never returned control to me, meaning I had to close and reopen the game. This bug happened to my save file multiple times and never resolved so I couldn’t continue playing on this save game even though I didn’t see anyone else experiencing this problem so this does not appear to be a major problem.
Instead of trying to hide his inspirations, The savage at heart makes it a central part of the design. The game uses its allusions to classic childhood works like Pikmin, Zelda, and Where the wild things are to enhance the experience and create the mood and feeling of childlike wonder and adventure. Under the surface however, The savage at heart doesn’t have much else to do. The mechanics are fun but simple, and the story is cute but unsurprising. I can’t say the game is worth its base price of $ 25, but if you can buy it on sale (or play it on Xbox Game Pass), you’ll definitely get your money’s worth and have a great time all around. .
Note: 7 out of 10
Tested on Playstation 4