What Heart Heard Of, Ghost Guessed

by Amanda Walker

Horror
2021

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Number of Reviews: 2
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A long, polished parser game using emotions as verbs, October 12, 2021
by MathBrush
Related reviews: about 2 hours

This game has a lot of work put into it. It has over a dozen testers (one of the best things you can see in a game), and draws inspiration from many other IF games.

You play as a ghost who cannot, at first, affect the material world. You also have no memories. As you play more and more, you unlock new verbs and new actions.

The story as it unfolds is one of torture and greed. You explore a big house and learn more about your untimely demise involving child abuse.

Here's my rating:
+Polish: The game is very smooth. With such a complex system, you'd expect a lot of bugs, but I found very few, if any. Parser errors were customized, as well.
+Descriptiveness: There was a spareness to the world. Some locations were described very succinctly. For instance:
"You are in a landing area at the top of a rickety staircase. There is a walk-in closet to the north."
However, the game was more descriptive with the emotions.
+Interactivity: Okay, I had some frustration here. Often, a new verb wouldn't lead to any progress in the room it was found in or the ones prior. This led to me trying the same verbs over and over again on everything with no success. It might have been worth adding a few more easy, early puzzles. For instance, I found no uses for (Spoiler - click to show)hate and love until long after I found both. However, the emotions idea was fun, and kept me persevering, so it was overall positive.
-Emotional impact. The story is not bad, and it reminds me (Spoiler - click to show)of the time I learned about 'the girl born without a face', which shaped my perceptions about physical disability and the love we should show to each other regardless of appearance. This story has a lot of good elements that would be ready to appeal to emotion, with a protagonist with mixed feelings about antagonists and a tragic backstory (similar, like the author said, to a story in Anchorhead, which worked a bit better for me). I think where things fell flat is that the protagonist is completely relatable and the enemies are clearly villains with little to no redeeming qualities. Our hero may have mixed feelings about them, but we, the reader, can clearly see them for what they are. This is kind of nitpicky, because this is a good story and I think I would like to read it again. I saw that this is the author's first game, and I'm reminded of a review that Emily Short gave of my first game (which I found quite painful at the time, and quite helpful now):
"I found [the game] least effective when it explicitly went for pathos in the writing, because[...]it hadnít put in the time to build up that empathy. Similarly, the ending reached for an emotional point that it hadnít done the work to earn, at least for me."

I think this is one of the better games in the comp overall and expect it to place anywhere in the top 15 or so. And if an author can do this well on the very first game, I can only imagine what games created with more experience will look like.
+Would I play again? Yes, I liked it.