Hanako Games develops games for girls that go beyond Barbie’s, pink, dolls, and shopping. Though the games are of the fantasy genre, don’t expect to see cutesy unicorns. The company’s latest addition, Fatal Hearts, combines anime-style art with girls who take the lead as the protagonist. The result is a modern adventure where you can choose your way to one of fourteen possible endings.
15-year-old Christina and her best friend, Lucy represent the typical teen girls who like going to the mall and noticing boys. Although, this sounds like a typical girl’s game, it’s only a tiny part of the story. The mysterious part of the story enters when Christina turns in for the night and encounters a strange, yet familiar man in her dream. Those puzzling dreams continue, but they’re hardly as perplexing as Lucy’s parents’ behavior.
In the charming scenes, the anime characters face the screen making players feel a part of the game. Beware — sudden sounds easily startle players when Christina runs into scary situations such as finding a dead body in the woods and running away from people without knowing why. I’m no fan of scary movies or games, but I could handle the creepy and eerie moments.
My eight-year-old son couldn’t help be drawn in to the story. I questioned whether he should watch the game since Hanako Game gave a Teen rating to Fatal Hearts a Teen rating because of suggestive themes and fantasy violence. Since my son hates to read, I let him watch as the game contains heavy dialogue — but I talked with him throughout the game to make sure he was OK. Thankfully, he didn’t get to see any of the endings I encountered as I thought it was too much for him.
But my son proved another point — that the game can interest boys. Teen boys might be another story, but this kid is into boy stuff and screams when anything reeking of “girly” comes near him. Nonetheless, I agree with the teen rating.
Starting the game was a frustrating experience, but the biggest problem was the fact it was loaded on a computer running Windows Vista (I know…) and the developer worked with me to solve the problem. So if you check out the game, try it first — even the game’s Web site recommends testing the demo before buying.
Fatal Hearts is like reading a fantasy novel where players decide what to do and solve puzzles. The decisions can be as trivial as whether to check on Lucy or wait at home, but they affect the direction and outcome of the game.
Most of the puzzles require creative thinking such as figuring out what a word means and unlocking a diary. With 14 possible endings, the game smartly lets players speed through parts they’ve already played and skip puzzles they’ve completed.
Hanako Games also offers a game strategy guide to those who join the forums. The guide includes hints and spoilers, and best of all — information on how to skip a puzzle. One exasperating puzzle involved moving a car through a maze without the bad guys catching up. I just couldn’t get through this one because the arrow keys were backwards for me.
Once players finish an adventure games, they rarely want to play again unless it’s to get a better score or try getting through a scene they skipped. But with its various endings, players will want to play Fatal Hearts again to check out the other endings and find new puzzles.
The music is very good and the sound effects hit the right note although they occasionally made my heart jump. Since Fatal Hearts resembles an interactive book more than a game, it’s not surprising the scenes have little variation. Therefore, most of a player’s time is spent reading the dialogue and making decisions. Though simple in execution and design, Fatal Hearts easily captivates especially those who enjoy fantasy, mysteries, and Choose Your Own Adventures and You Be the Jury — stories where you decide what happens.
System Requirements: Windows
- Windows 2000/XP/Vista
- 64 MB+ VRAM
- DirectX 8.0 or later
- 60 MB disk space