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Teleporting alien battles!

  • Beregon
  • 01/06/2021 10:07 PM
Pure Heart is a story of Yuki, a presumably adult woman who wears a japanese middle school uniform for some reason and dreams of finally finding a handsome man who will cook for her. She also has Pure Heart, because she saved a wounded dog with skills she learned from a random youtube viewtube video. This catches the attention of a nearby alien, who immediately recruits her for a mission to overthrow his tyrannical king Arthur. You see, there's a cloaked alien planet near Earth that's running out of resources, so its inhabitants plan to invade earth and settle there. Yuki's alien friend is convinced that there's a better way, so he fuses with her to give her superpowers. And then it's off to the alien planet to fight the good fight!

The story is charming and overall fine, even if very short and a significant part of it is limited to optional cutscenes you have to explore to find. At the end of these three optional cutscenes, Yuki's alien friend congratulates her on how much she's grown and... I couldn't see it. The most significant part of those cutscenes was Yuki reiterating her desire for a boyfriend and admitting that maybe Earth and the alien planet aren't so different. It felt rushed, which it probably was, considering this was made in two weeks for a game jam.

Very well, that's it for the story, what's the gameplay like? Well, it's basically a puzzle game with instanced action combat. Let me explain. The alien planet has tons of lakes filled with glowing green water and the only way across is to jump across small islands to the other side. Yuki starts with the ability to jump across any water that's 1 tile wide and you need to find the correct path across through the islands. She later gains the ability to phase through narrow cliffs which opens further possible paths and the last area adds in teleporting crystals.

There's also enemies that start chasing you if they spot you and if they get too close, you trigger a battle. So, what are battles like? Forget the traditional RPG Maker 2003 sideview battles with ATB bars, instead, you are teleported to a separate map with the enemy for a real time action battle. The enemy has HP and some also have multiple "lives" represented by hearts. The goal is to remove all of the enemy's "hearts". The enemy keeps moving and teleporting around the map (depending on which enemy it is and they tend to get more mobile as they lose HP), some of the boss enemies even chase after you and attack. You yourself have two types of attacks. One is a physical attack that hits 2 tiles before you. This is the only type of attack that damages enemy HP. Once the enemy HP is depleted, they enter a stationary weakened state and you are supposed to run up to them and attack them with the magical attack that hits 1 tile before you. If you are successful, they lose a heart, if not, they turn to normal and recover some HP. You also have a key you can hold to lock your characters direction in battle to make attacking easier. This doesn't help as much as it seems like it would and overall, the game could really use a key that would allow you to turn without moving for more precise attacks.

Now, this is of course complicated by the fact that in addition to chasing the enemy, you have to avoid various types of hazards in your way, like a ball of fire chasing you. The combat also eventually gets very frustrating, the problems with hitboxes begin to show and the enemy jumping all around the place instantly when you get close quickly gets supremely annoying. Not to mention that enemies seem to have more HP than they should, making battles really drag on.

To the hitboxes, most of the time you aren't gonna notice, but if the enemy jumps away or starts moving away just before you attack, then your hit frequently doesn't count. By default, RPG Maker counts the location of the event as immediately being on the destination tile when they start moving, which makes hit detection based on location work poorly by default. In newer versions of RPG Maker, you can just straight up rewrite/add code via a plugin or use script calls, in RPG Maker 2003 that's not an option and systems like this get a lot more complicated. So you need to use workarounds for more precise enemy hit detection. This issue is most obvious with enemies chasing you on the map that trigger combat. They don't even have to touch you to trigger it, just get near enough. One time, the enemy triggered combat despite him being on top of a clif and Yuki being on a small island with water separating the two in addition to the height difference. I'm not sure if this is intended.

Combat itself feels like something you are meant to avoid, like a punishment for failing to avoid them. Especially since you gain nothing from it and the game tracks the enemies you defeated to make the player character feel guilty in the end. Then again, the combat is unique, it's fun for a long time and it has a couple of things that prevent it from becoming too frustrating. One is the fact that you can instantly retry any lost battle, the other is the fact that upon losing a battle, you can choose to gain a buff for the next attempt that doubles your damage. This buff made the battles last much less time and honestly, it felt like a much better tempo for this. Just reduce player HP and it could be the default.

There were also a few bugs, like a random water tile Yuki could walk on and during one battle against a generic enemy, one of the fireballs kept following after Yuki but never damaged her, even if it was on the same tile as her. The final map also had a crystal that allowed you to scroll the map as you wished, which became very laggy and buggy when you reached the edges of the map for some reason, with input being significantly delayed until you moved away from them. But nothing really major.

When it comes it presentation, the game has charming minimalist style graphics that suit the game very well and really awesome music. The maps are more functional than pretty, but they do the job well.

So, what more to say about Pure Heart? Despite my frustrations, I've enjoyed it. It's an RPG Maker 2003 game with a custom action-based system made for a game jam in 2 weeks. That fact alone deserves some praise and the fact that it works pretty well even more so. After some thought, I'm giving this 3.5 Stars and hope that we possibly get a more polished sequel some day!


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Thanks for the honest review!

This basically sums up why I'd rather not participate in game jams. Despite working my ass off designing a custom battle system and making original pixel art, a lot of the game was left unpolished and not up to my personal standards. I did the best I could in 2 weeks.
Thanks for the honest review!

This basically sums up why I'd rather not participate in game jams. Despite working my ass off designing a custom battle system and making original pixel art, a lot of the game was left unpolished and not up to my personal standards. I did the best I could in 2 weeks.

Hi! I understand that something like this took a nightmarish amount of effeort, especially in RPG Maker 2003. I made action-based systems in MZ and even though that one makes it a lot easier, it still took a lot of effort. The fact that it works as well as it does in just two weeks and together with custom art is honestly pretty amazing. And it's not a bad short game :)

I get what you mean about your feelings about this game falling short of your standards, I have similar feelings about my Halloween event game. Still, it taught me a lot. I think entering game jams still has value though, for me, it gives me incentive to finish something and there's something to be said about creativity blooming under limitations.

Seriously, great job, I'm sure your next game will be even better :)
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