“I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.” – Simone de Beauvoir
Developer: Jesse Makkonen
Released: 10th April 2020
Price: £5.19 (PC), £4.89 (Android), £4.99 (iOS)
Heal is a brand new game from Jesse Makkonen, solo creator of the well-received Distraint games. It is a 2D side-scrolling point-and-click puzzle game but its primary focus is the subtle but poignant narrative about old age and the mind. The player must guide an old man through an obscure and confusing world, solving conundrums and rediscovering memories.
Narrative and Styling
The overarching themes and narrative are the game’s key features but these are subtle in the delivery and are presented to the player via the environment, its atmosphere and through symbolic visual and audio cues. As Heal only contains a few lines of text in total (translated to 29 languages) it relies heavily on abstract methods of story delivery and characterisation but does this brilliantly and is able to elicit an emotional response from the player.
The art style is somewhat gloomy, with a faded feeling that is possibly representative of the protagonist’s cognitive experience. While the well-implemented light and shadows provide some visual contrast, the muted colour palette adds to the general washed-out aesthetic which is further accentuated by various overlaid effects including dust particles, fog, watermarks and film-grain. The music mirrors this by being very subtle yet instrumental to the overall atmosphere; additionally, the sound effects and ambient noises help to create a sense of a bigger space than in the 2D image without being intrusive or distracting.
Heal is made up of seven chapters, each of which contains a series of puzzles that must be completed in order to progress. The problems are varied but fairly straight-forward, a seemingly deliberate choice to avoid overshadowing the narrative. However, whilst the puzzles are simple, there are some complicated conundrums dotted amongst them and they remain fun throughout the game.
One of the only negative aspects of Heal is its lack of game options or customisation, with just the in-game volume being adjustable. Players are unable to alter the resolution or modify any graphics settings which could cause issues for some. However, the simple controls (mouse only) and lack of written or spoken language mean that the game is still widely accessible in spite of the missing menu!
Overall, Heal is a short but thought-provoking experience that manages to be simultaneously abstract and highly relatable. It will take around 1-2 hours to play but has some replayability in the form of achievements and does allow players to revisit chapters freely after initial competition of the game. It is also very clear that Heal is a labour of love and dedication with all aspects of the title’s development having been done by a single person. The game is admirable in both its ambition and its execution and I’d happily recommend it to fans of narrative-focused point-and-click puzzle games.