We've all been there. Someone has been mad at us, and we're not sure what we did. (Or rather, which of the things we did that they know about.) Finding My Heart, by Small Is Beautiful Interactive, is a short and sweet little point-and-click game about just such a situation. After one too many gaming sessions in front of the television, oblivious to her feelings, our hero's girlfriend has finally had enough and kicks him out of the house. What follows is a short adventure that has you trying to figure out a way back inside, by figuring out where he went wrong in the first place, and what to do about it.
As befits a point-and-click game, you navigate by pointing and clicking where you want to go, and on people or objects you want to interact with. Clicking on a person will bring up your available actions... but only the ones you've learned. Because instead of picking up random items and trying to turn them into the magical MacGuffin as is usually par for the course in point-and-click games, you're picking up new ways of communicating instead. One person might advise you to lend someone your ear, and doing so may open up other ways of expressing yourself.
It may sound strange, and actually, it is. But it's also a clever way to shake up the point-and-click formula. Finding My Heart is short and easy enough that anyone can pick up and play it, since there are only a handful of screens to search on. There are no real penalties for trying the wrong interaction on someone, so you can cycle through them until you've puzzled out the right order. Oh, and the coins you can discover along the way? Hold on to them until the credits have rolled, and you can use them to "purchase" some neat little making-of features from the game.
Analysis: Okay, so the message is more than a little cookie-cutter direct, sweet and neatly stamped out. Perhaps it would go down a bit smoother if the characters had a little more personality behind them other than their assigned plot-purpose stereotypes. MEN, how about that baseball cap and those video games, eh? Eh?? And LADIEZ, we're always with the emotions and the housework, amirite? Of course not. People are more complex than that. (We're also all about the tupperware.) And of course video games are not the root of all discord, unless we're talking about something put out by a movie franchise.
Finding My Heart isn't unique because it's trying to impart a message, since most games these days make at least a token effort to do so. (Probably as a result of us darn women again, amirite?) It's unique because of the way it's presented. Presenting your inventory in a point-and-click game as an arsenal of interactions and concepts rather than a bunch of random items is surprisingly refreshing, if a little idealistic. (Why isn't the message compromise instead of sacrifice, for example?) If the game were presented in the usual way, you might end up simply presenting flowers and chocolates to the offended party, which might have the same effect in "Game World", but not the same message.
But it isn't just the interaction that charms me, it's the presentation as a whole. Finding My Heart, with it's big cartoony graphics, is silly and endearing in the same way old cartoons are. I like the way the various character you meet express themselves in pictures rather than words, letting you piece together their stories by what you see rather than what you hear. I just wish I could say as many charitable things about the voicing for the characters, which was cute at first, but repetitive enough to have me fumbling for the mute button after five minutes.
Is the game going to change the way you look at life? Probably not. Is it going to open up a whole world of romantic possibilities for you? Doubt it. But even if it's a little hackneyed in its message, Finding My Heart is still refreshingly sweet and earnest. It's just the right size to fit into a coffee break, and it shows you can still be original even when the genre has been around since the dawn of time. Give it a try. Just don't forget to give the one you love a big, sloppy kiss every once in a while. Tongues optional, but heartily endorsed.