The Wild at Heart

Two young friends em­bark on an ad­ven­ture of magic and mys­tery

PC GAMER (US) - - CONTENTS -

“We wanted to tell a story that aims for that imag­i­nary es­capism”

If you ever snuck into the woods as a child, hop­ing to find myth­i­cal crea­tures, or searched valiantly for a por­tal into an­other world, The Wild at Heart feels like it’s be­ing made just for you. Cur­rently in de­vel­op­ment at in­die stu­dio Sleep­Ninja Games, it tells the story of two young friends who un­cover a land of magic and mon­sters on the bor­ders of their sleepy home­town.

It takes place in a small coastal town called Wil­low­vale, which sits along­side a deep, sprawl­ing for­est. While ex­plor­ing the woods one day, the game’s pro­tag­o­nists Wake and Kirby dis­cover that there are friendly spir­its liv­ing among the trees, and they’re be­ing pro­tected by an or­der called the Green­shields.

Justin Bald­win, cre­ative di­rec­tor at Sleep­Ninja Games, talks about th­ese char­ac­ters with un­bri­dled en­thu­si­asm. “The Green­shields de­fend the ele­men­tal spirit crea­tures from an all-con­sum­ing dark force called The Never,” he says. “The Green­shields haven’t had any new blood in years, and their or­der has stag­nated to the point that they don’t re­mem­ber their own names. Wake and Kirby must work to­gether, with the aid of a loyal swarm of Spritel­ings, to bat­tle en­e­mies, con­struct new path­ways, gather re­sources, rein­vig­o­rate the or­der of the Green­shields, and dis­cover the se­crets of this for­got­ten world.”

This all sounds very fright­en­ing for two chil­dren, but Kirby and Wake are pre­pared for their ad­ven­ture. Wake is a pre­co­cious kid with a bril­liant mind but a trou­bled home life who spends his time en­gi­neer­ing var­i­ous con­trap­tions, such as his pro­ton pack-in­spired Gust­buster. Kirby, mean­while, is Wake’s eight-year-old neigh­bor, who uses her bud­ding in­ves­tiga­tive skills and trusty Peep­mas­ter 4D gog­gles to solve mys­ter­ies.

Crea­ture fea­ture

The im­ages Sleep­Ninja has shared so far look beau­ti­ful. Kirby and Wake can be seen in­ter­act­ing with strange crea­tures, such as the gi­ant weasel Cath, who greets the chil­dren with a Cheshire Cat-like grin, and an over­grown toad called a Bel­lowog. The lit­tle radish-shaped crea­tures that fol­low Wake and Kirby are called Spritel­ings, and play­ers can use their Pik­min-es­que qual­i­ties to solve puz­zles, fight en­e­mies and craft items.

“Through­out Wake and Kirby’s jour­ney they will en­counter many strange and in­ter­est­ing crea­tures,” says Bald­win. “Th­ese crea­tures will usu­ally be an em­bod­i­ment of a theme or con­flict in our story. Th­ese crea­tures will act as [ Mario] Odyssey- like pro­gres­sion block­ers that will need over­com­ing, be­friend­ing or ap­peas­ing to progress.”

Sleep­Ninja has taken cues from the movies of Stu­dio Ghi­bli, as well as Where the Wild Things Are and The Nev­erEnd­ing Story. Like those nar­ra­tives, a vein of melan­choly has also slipped in.“I knew for a while I wanted to make a game about es­capism with lit­tle crea­ture bud­dies,” Bald­win says. “I think it came out of my con­tin­u­ing to work through and process things from my own child­hood. It’s a time that is sup­posed to be be­fore re­spon­si­bil­ity, be­fore tragedy, be­fore the world is any­thing other than magic. How­ever, it’s also a time that can leave scars. We wanted to tell a story that aims for that imag­i­nary es­capism and nos­tal­gia but also keep an hon­est heart when it comes to the chal­lenges of child­hood.”

It’s this in­ter­est in be­ing a child that de­fines the game. “The lens of youth is the main theme,” Bald­win ex­plains. “Get­ting lost in videogames and comics and car­toons, ex­plor­ing the woods, see­ing all the sights that your imag­i­na­tion would show you. We want this game to make you feel like you’re a kid again.” Kim­ber­ley Bal­lard

Spritel­ings can help you de­feat en­e­mies and gather re­sources.

Wake and Kirby meet a gi­ant weasel spirit called Cath.

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