Heart Star is a deceptively cute looking platformer with a twist: you alternate between controlling a red and blue character, getting both to work together in order to reach each level’s goal. It’s a simple concept and mechanic in practice, but goodness do the level layouts make it tricky.
Sure both characters can only move left and right and jump, but the obstacles you’ll have to deal with make things decidedly less simple.
Switching characters usually changes the level layout. When you’re red, blue blocks become intangible. When you’re blue, red blocks become intangible. Purple blocks are forever.
Shift back and forth between characters a couple of times when you start a level for the first time. That way you can get a feel for the layout before potentially falling to certain doom.
Sometimes looking for active platforms won’t make figuring out who you’re controlling any easier. Instead, look at the level’s background – it’ll change between red and blue depending on who’s active (red for red, blue for blue).
You can interact with the inactive character. Whichever character you aren’t using can be pushed, carried, or used as a platform as-needed or just for laughs if you’re into that.
Carrying is key. After it’s introduced, you’ll likely be using the characters to ferry each other around quite often.
Remember that you can use inactive characters as platforms. This is essential in order to get across areas with large incorporeal blocks of whatever the inactive color is – which basically equates to empty space.
Mind your head. Sometimes the ceiling can get a little low, and if you aren’t watching out you could inadvertently cut a jump short and drop into a pit.
You can’t swap characters in midair. Don’t try to get fancy, because it isn’t going to work.
Spikes can also be color-coded. They behave like blocks, with blue spikes only affecting blue and red only affecting red.
Switches are also color-coded. Red can only be used by red, blue by blue, and purple by both.
You can’t jump while carrying someone. If you’ve got the other character in your back, all you can do is walk and drop off of ledges.
While you can’t jump when carrying someone, you can fall. It’s not always a necessary tactic, but sometimes it does come in handy.
Use the other character as a stepping stool. Some of the jumps might be too high for a given character to make on their own, so try bringing the other character over or near to the higher platform and use them to get a bit of a boost.
I don’t mean to keep harping about Heart Star’s simplicity, but I’m well and truly impressed with just how interesting and challenging of a platformer it is considering how all you do is move, jump, and swap between characters. Barring the intrusive ads, there’s nothing to really complain about. It’s cute, simple, tough, and worth checking out.
So Simple, So Tricky
I wasn’t expecting much from Heart Star, honestly. I suppose that, technically, it doesn’t provide much, either. However, while it’s incredibly simple to control with just left, right, and jump buttons, it’s still a surprisingly tricky platformer thanks to its one very slight mechanical addition: the ability to switch between one of two playable characters. You wouldn’t think it could be a game changer but yeah, that’s where we are.
Don’t Let it Fool You
Each level is “simply” a matter of getting both red and blue characters (I assume Heart and Star, respectively) to the goal. The challenge comes in the form of needing to alternate control between the two of them along the way. Oh but it’s not just “move them, then move them,” oh no, no, no, no. You see, whenever you flip to one color, all of the level elements that share that color become solid while everything else ends up being sort of non-corporeal. Except for purple, which remains solid for both, because purple is red and blue.
Despite the overall simplicity I do like how the switching changes things up (pun not really intended but I’ll take credit for it anyway). The way the layout shifts depending on who’s active and the way the characters can carry each other or be used as platforms force me to think around the platforming in a different manner. Now instead of just trying to jump over pits and spikes I also have to consider what the other character’s path will be like and how I can use my current character to aid them.
Every so often some new wrinkle is introduced to the environments, which makes things even more tricky to navigate. For example, the red character is unaffected by blue spikes, and so can carry the blue character across them in total safety. I mean, with patience and some critical thinking it’s not particularly difficult to figure out the various solutions, but it’s the need to think critically that I truly appreciate.
The only think about Heart Star that really bothers me is the ad stuff. It is possible to remove ads for $1.99, which is good. However, if you don’t remove the ads you end up getting full screen pop-ups after every couple of levels. And they always seem to want to appear just as I’m about to start moving people around, thus constantly resulting in my almost tapping on a full screen ad. I don’t mind the inclusion of the ads, but I do wish there was a bit more of a window surrounding the moments when they appear. It’s just… there isn’t any real hands-off time for the ads to show up – it just goes from level completion celebration to the start of the next level. Maybe having a bit more of a non-interactive gap would make the ads feel a bit less intrusive?
Jump & Switch
The ad stuff is a bit of a nitpick, sure, but it can be a bit irritating and troublesome – especially when you accidentally tap on the ad in question. Of course that’s the only real complaint I have. Other than that Heart Star is quite the enjoyable little platformer with a twist. Once the levels start to introduce trickier elements like spikes and carrying and whatnot they get to be quite satisfying to figure out. If you’re looking for a platformer that will make you think a little differently, this is a good place to start.
– Review by Rob Rich
(Android – For most Android based phones and tablets.
See download page for specific requirements.)
(iOS – For most iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch devices.
See download page for specific requirements.)