IndieTrials
The Hearts of Men
Developed by misterjz
Released on March 4th 2011
Sold on XBLIG for 80 MSP
Review details
Reviewed on March 21st 2011 by Martin Caine
First impressions
The box art for The Hearts of Men has a well designed background depicting an angry man swinging a sword but I feel it's let down by the position and style of the text. It's hard to read the title when viewed at a smaller size and only the H and M stand out (and the H looks like a lower case N). This makes the box art look a little less professional.

The first few screens of the game introduce you to the visual style of the game. The main menu and initial screens lack some on-screen direction. For example the first screen you simply need to press A to start, you are shown what B, X and Y do but there's no 'press A to play'. Also on the character select screen after choosing a player I was unsure what I was supposed to do, again there was no prompt to tell me how to start the game.

While the game's art is nice and stylistic the lack of on-screen prompts on those screens was a little confusing, first impressions are ok but not great.
Trial experience
Now I've started the game and there's some introduction text to read while a scene pans down the screen, linking in to the story you're reading. There's quite a bit to read and personally I think this would be much better with a voice-over reading it out to you.

The level loads and I'm now in control, I'm actually quite impressed by the look of the in-game graphics, the game looks a lot like some of the 16 bit console RPG games I remember playing. The light in front of the character is a nice touch and the movement and animation of the player are well done. The levels look well designed and the enemy behaviour and movement is well done.

One minor annoyance I found was when the enemies sometimes pop on the screen you want to run away and shoot at the same time but the character can only shoot in the direction he's walking. I think this would work well with a dual stick style control scheme, so I could use the left stick to move the character and the right stick to still aim 'backwards' at the enemies.

During the trial I only encounter two types of enemy, a ghost and some type of skeleton, each of which are easily dispatched and I found a few keys to unlock the way into the next area. The gameplay (in the trial atleast) is relatively simple and I can imagine it being fun playing with friends too. I hit the end of the trial while still playing.
Overall thoughts
The Hearts of Men is a great fantasy themed adventure / hack-and-slash game with a deep back-story and nice visual style.

While the first impressions of the game were not that great once I got into the world itself I really enjoyed it, although it was a little repetitive running away from ghosts and shooting them I expect there's much more to the full game and the trial does at least make you want to know what more there is to the game.
Rating