Wild at Heart looks like an amalgamation of some of Nintendo’s most unique game mechanics. Such a statement can strike fear into your heart, and we will not blame you. In the end, many attempts by third-party developers to mimic Nintendo’s designs and techniques have failed due to poor execution or misunderstanding of what made such a mechanic so great in the first place. That said, Wild at Heart is one of the most successful Nintendo jabs we’ve ever seen.
Combining gameplay elements from Pikmin, Luigi’s Mansion, and The Legend of Zelda, The Wild at Heart can, at least on paper, seem like it doesn’t have any ideas of its own, instead it is quite content with hanging on folds of Nintendo. best. However, while much of its mechanics are borrowed from other games – not unlike the forty-like (and excellent) Death’s Door – thanks to a well-realized world, lovable characters, and stunning visual designs, developer Moonlight Kids has managed to – then create. it seems completely unique.
You play as Wake, a little boy who, along with his best friend Kirby (no, not what Kirby), heads into a deep forest to escape a hectic childhood at home. After losing Kirby, Wake meets Gray Coat, a wise old man who is part of the order known as the Green Shields, and befriends him. Wake is tasked with finding other members of the order in the deep forest, solving various puzzles and enemies along the way, all the while looking for his missing friend.
At the start of his adventure, Wake collects a piece of gear called a Gustbuster, which is remarkably similar to Luigi’s Poltergust, except for the handy ability to actually absorb ghosts. At the start of the game, Green Shields give Gastbuster extra strength, allowing Wake to traverse the ground with him and pull key items that are inaccessible to him. As you progress, you will improve the Gustbuster, allowing you to use its power for longer periods of time.
Shortly after meeting the Greenschilds and testing out his improved Gustbuster, Wake encounters adorable little creatures known as Spritelings. In fact, these are the “picmins” of this universe, and you will develop and use these little guys quite often on your journey. Crafting them is pretty straightforward and requires a combination of collectibles called Twigling Pips and blue orbs. You just throw them into the spritelling well and pull the sprites out of it. At the beginning of the game, you can have no more than 15 people, but this number increases over time.
The spritelings themselves can be thrown while you roam the ground, mainly to carry items with you or destroy objects and monsters with your combined power. In the early morning, you will find that many tasks take a little time since you only have a few sprites at a time. However, once you can hatch large batches in one go, their numbers make the tasks much more manageable and time-friendly.
Of course, while Sprylings are useful in their own way, they are nevertheless quite inept when it comes to self-defense. When faced with larger creatures, they can be knocked back relatively easily, and a few hits will result in their death. There is little you can do about it other than hatching even more of these to replace your extinct friends, but this can make some frustrating encounters, especially since the enemies’ health bars replenish when you return to their places. Sometimes you just have to cross your fingers and hope that the increased number of them can undermine the health of the monsters before they are all killed.
Despite these minor disappointments, the game includes several improved living conditions to ensure that you can track and manage your Spriteling squad. If any of them get stuck in the world at some point – be it an island or a rock – you can spend 50 of your colored orbs to bring the little guys back to their position. Alternatively, if you want to save some currency, you can completely discard all dormant sprites at the wells. Regardless of the method, you rarely need to worry too much about the welfare of your little friends.
Structurally, the game is very similar to The Legend of Zelda, in particular to Breath of the Wild in terms of freedom of choice. When you are given the primary task of finding Greenshields members, how you do this is largely up to you. The map forks into different paths, each of which can be explored, even though some require a couple of your hardware upgrades or sprites to navigate.
However, the size of the land means the game often can’t keep up with load times. Small areas aren’t that bad, but when you move into a large open space, the game will often take 30 to 60 seconds to load. When you often need to move between areas, it can definitely get a little annoying.
The good news, however, is that load times are more than worth it just to get you a peek at the stunning visuals on the display. The unique playstyle with hand-crafted 2D characters really shines through. It is a world that has been meticulously assembled with the utmost care, from protagonists to flora and fauna. It makes you care about your actions and forces you to see your path through to the end. Add to that a beautiful soothing soundtrack and we honestly can’t praise the presentation enough.
Wild at Heart borrowed some mechanics from the Nintendo IP, there is no doubt about that. It might have been a bit of a problem were it not for the exquisite visual style and presentation, not to mention the excellent execution of this Moonlight Kids mechanic. With a story that is equally entertaining, intriguing and emotional, along with truly stunning 2D graphics, you will instantly immerse yourself in this world. Not to mention the minor frustrations with combat and loading times, this is an adventure that you’ll be glad to embark on.