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EGX Highlights: Pine Hearts is a cosy hiking holiday with the occasional nostalgia trip


A busy riverside campsite in Pine Hearts.
Image credit: Hyper Luminal Games

Sometimes, the ability to push over a tree was inside you all along. Retrieving woodland traversal skills from the depths of memory is key to Pine Hearts, an easygoing adventure/exploration game that I've spent a very relaxing half-hour with in the EGX 2023 Rezzed Zone.

You are a cute lil’ bean of a camper, returning solo to the isometric splendour of Pine Hearts Caravan Park for the first time since a series of childhood trips with your larger bean father. The map is open, but in traditional Metroidvania/Zelda fashion, most of the paths are blocked off until you can find the tool or remember the ability to clear them.

The tools are the simple part: this is a friendly camp full of friendly folk, and some will gift you the kit you need in exchange for some casual fetching and puzzling. I earned a hatchet, for example, by gathering cheeseburger ingredients for a visiting cryptozoologist, then baiting his quarry with the freshly stacked sandwich.

A memory sequence in Pine Hearts, with the protagonist navigating a forest made partly of childlike drawings.
Image credit: Hyper Luminal Games

Remembering the rest, however, is up to you, specifically by finding landmarks that induce a bout of playable nostalgia. In these moments, you are once again your young self, retracing your steps through those old trips with Dad. I wish the demo included more than one of these flashbacks, as it really was quite sweet, with trees and bushes replaced by doodled paper replicas as if recited from a crayon book.

I suspect the rest of the game turns more bittersweet; your father is notably absent from the current trip, and an opening cutscene hints that it's not by choice. But in turning these memory jaunts into learning experiences, Pine Hearts seems to maintain a constructive outlook on nostalgia, rather than advocating for wallowing in it.

I also appreciate the little twist on the explore-get item-explore routine. Functionally and tonally, Pine Hearts comes awfully close to other cosy adventures like A Short Hike and Smushi Come Home – not inherently a bad thing, as both of those are great. But exploring the same places as both a capable grownup and a starry-eyed youngster, seeing them the same but different, gives this particular escapade a more distinct emotional bent. Consider me a cautiously interested bean.

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