Valiant Hearts is part puzzle solving, part interactive narrative, and all about the sad truth of war. Despite the very military-esque themes, the game is much more about making the players truly wonder about the value of human life, and the real consequences of war. It is an unapologetic, tongue-in-cheek contrast to the action oriented FPS games that tend to depict the desperate pitched battles that real human soldiers on the front lines. Where other titles would focus on trying to show glory, this game shows you the hardships and pain that conflict truly brings.
There is irony in a game set during the war that does not allow the player to fight. No, you will be pushing stuff around, triggering events, trying to figure out how to make NPCs move, and more. Valiant Hearts is, at its core, a puzzle game where you must figure out the relationship of context sensitive items all around you in order to make things progress. It is a delightfully clever game, and it makes the players focus more on trying to keep characters alive instead of trying to kill the enemy.
There is a constant sense of desperation and dread in the fact that a lot of the people you meet are down-trodden, injured, or both. Everyone else is either trying to kill you or is already dead. Well, there are some healthy friendlies that appear as well, but for the most part, players are made to deal with very unfortunate circumstances that they must figure out how to get out of.
Not to say that you never get to confront the enemy, one of the five characters is a big French soldier who specializes in throwing explosives, and you do get to take down some pretty big things when playing his narrative (he blows up a huge bridge and a flying machine through his storyline).
The game actually shows you the war on different fronts -both the allied and German forces are represented by the protagonists. And it truly succeeds in show how just all-encompassing the effects of war can be on a person. It affects their personality, their futures, and even the lives of their families living far away from the battle. There are a lot of really good touches in terms of bringing out the personality of the characters -which is shown entirely though actions and gestures. The game's use of gibberish for voices blurs the lines between race and nationalities, and is a clever way of making the player focus on the value of the individual instead of judging them based on the flags they salute.
The game has very lighthearted and cartoony visuals, and despite that style, it still does not hesitate to show players the absolute horrors of warfare itself. There are darkened, smoke-filled skies over the corpse-strewn terrain frontlines, with lights depicting the impact of exploding artillery and mortar fire. You will have to trek across this dangerous terrain -even resorting to the somewhat macabre tactic of using corpses as cover against gunfire.
While the characters are not heavily detailed, the animation is done in such a way that their body movements are extremely expressive (and sometimes accentuated by small icon bubbles that define what they are thinking of or are feeling). Seeing them react to the absolutely depressing sights of the war drives the message of the story very clearly.
But if that was not enough, the Valiant Hearts is also heavily narrated. While some of the explanations seem a little too obvious, it does a good job of making sure that the audiences are on the same page in terms of understanding the context of what is happening.
If you were hoping for a World War I action fest against hordes of evil soldiers, this is not that game. Valiant Hearts focuses on the human drama that happens behind the scenes, and in a very compelling way too. Not everything has to be about conflict. The truly succeeds in proving that even in the face of one of the most devastating wars in human history, there will always be room for the human heart to shine through.
'Machinarium pushes the boundaries when it comes to what we know about traditional point and click titles. First, it has no dialogue save for a few text tidbits at the start. Its puzzles are confined to a single screen, and it's not afraid to lend a hand when needed. It's different, and it's infinitely more interesting because of it. To sum it up, Machinarium is one of those rare games that brilliantly executes radical ideas.'