The Hearts of Men
Developer: Coltran Studios
Available On: XBLIG
Co-Op Mode: Local (up to 4 players) [Note: Online play is purportedly coming]
Price: 80 MS Points ($1)
Demo w/ Co-Op Available: Yes
Only four magical words are needed to describe, sum up, and sell The Hearts of Men to an entire audience of gamers that grew up with the Nintendo and arcade machines: “Wizard needs food badly.” For everyone that just rushed off to pick-up this great Indie title, enjoy! For everyone that’s still around, let me explain.
When I first began playing video games, and co-op games in particular, the very first one that I remember was a game that has seen a few different renditions over the year, none of which live up to the original. I am referring to Gauntlet, a game that was solely built around having you and your friends rush from dungeon after dungeon (100 total) as quickly as possible so you could grab some “Sacred Orb” and beat the game. It was, by today’s standards, frustrating, pointless, and utterly fantastic. The Hearts of Men doesn’t quite live up to that same standard/bar that was set by its progenitor, but it does a very good job of capturing that essence.
You start things off by choosing one of four characters: a warrior, an elf, a warlock, or a Viking. Which you end up selecting affects how quickly you attack, the strength of these attacks, and what your special ability (triggered by collecting special potions) does. Each level of The Hearts of Men essentially boils down to fighting your way through some amount of baddies, finding keys to find to unlock the next section, picking up special potions to help clear the way, and, every now and then, taking on a boss. You also only have 300 health with which to make it from the beginning to the exit, and this slowly ticks away as time progresses or disappears in large chunks when hit by a foe, so speed is of the essence. The game offers up two different difficulty modes: casual for newcomers, and classic for old-school fans. There is a noticeable difference in enemies and how quickly your health ticks away, so Gauntlet-ites should feel a warm nostalgia feeling when they “boot” the game up.
That warlock is angry and ready to team up to take down some baddies!
While you can play through The Hearts of Men all by your lonesome, a game like this is really geared towards a co-op session. Bringing along a few more buddies to help you go through and complete everything truly invokes that sensation of sitting around an arcade machine trying to get as far as possible purely for bragging rights. There are no high scores or some seemingly unreachable level to push for on a quarter, but there is still that feeling of camaraderie to keep going and make it to the end when you’ve only got 25 health left and a swarm of monsters in front of you. The two elements that were added that both make co-op better, but also a little worse, is the inclusion of potions that restore the health of the entire team as well as the ability to revive fallen teammates. While this is certainly a good thing for enhancing the co-op experience, I miss the days of running ahead of another character to steal the food away from him or her…
The Hearts of Men may not provide the same endurance challenge that Gauntlet did, but it absolutely provides that same feeling of nostalgia that has been missing from so many other iterations and clones over the years. With a $1 price tag, too, it’s hard to pass this one up.
The Hearts of Men is Geared Towards: Gauntlet and old-school hack-n-slash dungeon crawler fans
The Co-Op Experience: Team up with up to four friends to make it through dungeon after dungeon in an attempt to clear all 11 levels and claim victory before your health runs out