Valiant Hearts is a wonderful 2D adventure inspired by events from WW1.
Tears of War.
When it comes to video games inspired by World War events, we're usually shown the grim side of conflicts, thrown straight into the battlefield, armed to the teeth with ammunition. It's the same, whether it's from a third or first-person erperspective. Valiant Hearts : The Great War, on the other hand, takes a more subtle approach, blending light-hearted puzzle platforming around an emotional, interweaving story.
Inspired by letters sent during WWI, you take the role of four characters, each with their own motives and courage throughout the war. There's Emile, a French farmer thrust into battle for his country, leaving behind his loved ones. Freddie, an American solder looking for revenge, due to his fallen wife. Karl, a German who's in love with Emile's daughter. Then Ana, a Belgium nurse who attends fallen soldiers across the battlefield.
The inspirational story is told entirely from a narrator between levels. This is complimented with a bold art style, presented in a cartoonish, comic-book fashion. Using the UbiArt Framework engine, seen in Child of Light and RaymanChcc, everything is beautifully hand-drawn. Each level feels like a living comic, and captures the atmosphere of WWI's events superbly.
There is some emphasis on combat, but it's fairly scripted. Your either lobbing grenades to eliminate foes, or demolishing structures to produce a way forward. Stealth tactics are also required on some occasions, such as escaping a boot camp. These have you switching between cover spots, before sneaking behind patrolling guards and whacking them over the head. Get caught or fired upon though, and your immediately sent back a few steps. It's a fair punishment that blend well with it's simplistic puzzles.
Levels are split into four chapters, which should take around 6 or so hours to complete. It's rather short then, but there's lots of collectibles to discover along the way. War diaries are also unlocked throughout the story, providing you some history lessons. However, they do feel a little out of place. The only real reason to return would be for it's tougher difficulty, removing in-game hints. Apart from that, there's nothing else to entice you back.
Puzzles are at the centre of Valiant Hearts experience. Most of them should take no longer than a few minutes to solve. Yet, their nicely varied and charming throughout. You could be finding combinations to crack a safe, reconnecting gas pipes, searching for items, or simply pulling levers. Costume changes were easily my favourite puzzling moments of the bunch. These have you trying to enter restricted areas, slipping past soldiers and French police by acquiring their uniforms.
An adorably smart medic dog, named Walt, also follows your lead on most levels. He's not directly controllable, but you can order him to fetch useful items. He plays some role in many of the puzzles, such as triggering switches, or reaching tight areas. Some of the more complex puzzles involve Walt, and he's a very charming piece of Valiant Heart's story.
Valiant Hearts is a charming, creative and stunning platformer, worth playing for it's narrative alone. It may be a little too simplistic, but it's refreshing art style and emotional take on WW1's horrific events, make this a truly memorable experience.