Xbox 360

  All Features


  PlayStation 3
  PlayStation 4
  Wii U
  Xbox 360
  Xbox One


The Hearts of Men

Score: 72%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: COLTRAN Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

The Hearts of Men has a lot in common with Gauntlet. It's a top-down dungeon hack featuring hordes of enemies and four unique heroes. The action is about as straightforward as a game can get, leading to a nostalgic bit of fun. However, it lacks some of the overlooked underpinnings of classic arcade games, making it ideal for co-op play, but not so ideal for when you're alone.

As XBLA Indie games go, The Hearts of Men's presentation is a step above the rest. The game's art style is somewhere between a comic book and a Saturday morning cartoon. I've always been a big fan of simple line-drawn visuals, so I was instantly drawn to the game's style. Animation is a bit stiff, but alongside the visuals, it's a part of the game's charm. Cool light and haze effects compliment the artwork. This level of detail is a rare find.


The game's main thrust involves a group of four adventurers who enter a dark tower in hopes of expelling the evil that lives inside. Gameplay involves traveling through mazes and defeating the groups of enemies that come at you. It's a simple concept, though there's a vast difference between playing alone and playing with friends.

The large disparity between the single and co-op versions of the game is The Hearts of Men's greatest flaw. In short, the game isn't incredibly fun when you're trying to go through levels without any sort of backup. There's a certain novelty to the playstyle, though there's no real driving force to keep you moving forward and interested. With Gauntlet, you at least had the ticking clock of your health and multiple level progression paths. The Hearts of Men doesn't provide that same sort of motivation. These problems aren't as big a deal when playing with friends, but there, the fun is generated by companionship, not the gameplay.


The Hearts of Men is more fun with friends, and also a lot easier. Enemies are incredibly aggressive, even when you're on opposite sides of the same wall. When playing with friends, you can use this to your advantage and set up traps. Alone, however, you're at the mercy of the hordes and your supply of potions. There are a few single-player strategies to help dull the difficulty, though none are as effective as when you've got back-up.

If you're going to tackle the tower alone, it's probably best to set the difficulty to "Casual." You'll encounter fewer enemies, though the trade-off is a slower pace. Again, there needs to be some sort of driving force pushing you forward. Getting to the next level just isn't enough of a motivation.

Game Mechanics:

You can't move and shoot in an opposite direction, which also factors into the game's difficulty. With friends, you can use one person as bait, while the others fire away from a distance - something you can't do solo. I'm not a big fan of the idea, but at the same time, it's an interesting design decision. Enemies come at you from all sides, forcing you to prioritize enemies. However, the underlying gameplay doesn't support this mechanic. Enemies swarm you, so there's no way to effectively check-off which target to go for first. I couldn't begin to count the number of cheap hits I had to absorb because I had to shop, then shoot.

As you go through levels, you'll eventually stumble across helpful potions. Green potions, which recover your health, are priority one. There aren't many in the game, so it's also important that you ration when you use them. Even more important are blue potions, which allow you to use your character's special attack. These damage everyone on the screen and can bail you out of a tight spot. Finally there are Red potions, which heal your party. These are just as vital as green potions, though when playing with others, you can also revive downed members.

Knowing when to use potions is one of the few major, meaningful choices you'll need to make in the game. The Hearts of Men is a fun throwback, but it's the lack of these sorts of decisions that hold it back. Getting to the end of the level isn't enough; other factors need to conspire to keep me from getting there, while at the same time, motivating me to want to press on.

Like most board games, there's a direct relation between the amount of fun you'll have and the people you're playing with. If you like the idea of getting a group of friends together for a simple game night, The Hearts of Men should be on your play list. Otherwise, The Hearts of Men is a good title, but one you'll want to try before buying.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Related Links:

Windows Wendy's Wellness Sony PlayStation Portable Jikandia: The Timeless Land

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated