Pine Hearts is a narrative adventure game developed by Hyper Luminal Games and published by Little Nook. You play as Tyke on an adventure to hike a mountain while piecing together his motives for this climb. Bring the tissues for this one!

I typically begin a review by explaining the story. However, given that Pine Hearts is narrative-based, most of what I could say would be spoilers. As the game description says, “It tells a story of the loss of a family member with tenderness and care.” It takes you on an emotional ride with quirky characters and cozy aesthetics. The main goal is to get up the mountain, but the park ranger won’t let you through until you’re well prepared. Thus, your adventure begins.

As you play through Pine Hearts, you’ll piece the story together yourself by rediscovering memories. Tyke has been here before, he just needs some help reminiscing. To unlock these memories, you’ll find tear drops across the open world map. You’ll need a total of 1,300 drops to unlock all five memories. Needless to say, it’s a short adventure. I got through the game within a handful of hours, but it was worth every moment.

But how do you get the tear drops? That’s where the gameplay comes in. First, tear drops are scattered about generously. All you need to do is explore the world and you’ll find them waiting for you. You’ll also earn drops by completing quests for NPCs. Some of these quests will get you exploring the world and simply give you 50-100 tears. Other quests will allow you to further explore the world by getting the tools you need.

For example, you’ll need a hammer and a shovel, just to name a couple. You’ll find the shovel as part of a quest and get to keep it, which will help you with other quests down the road. Despite its cozy vibes, Pine Hearts will keep the quests coming, so there’s never a dull moment. Sometimes, you’ll have multiple quests at once, especially if you talk to everyone you pass.

The world is open with a handful of major areas to explore, each with subareas. You’ll explore a couple of caves, beaches, and even a castle. There are no levels, game modes, timers, or the like; you can go through the game at your own pace. Some quests will involve a mini-game (such as lawn mowing) or a puzzle (such as connecting gears together to trigger a gate mechanism), but none of it is too difficult or head-scratching. 

The controls are simple, too. To break a rock or leap over a cliff, you simply press A. Sometimes, you’ll need to move the L-stick in a certain direction. The default option is to use timed button presses, but I turned that off. It was fine and worked well, but I preferred to play through the game as simply as possible.

Once you have enough tears, you’ll unlock a memory and get to watch it. You’ll have some control over Tyke during these short sequences, but there’s minimal gameplay. Again, I won’t go into detail because of spoilers. However, unlocking these memories will also remind Tyke of a skill he used to have, such as leaping over chasms or creating bridges by pushing a tree over. These skills will allow access to other parts of the map and create shortcuts.

By the time I had unlocked the final skill, I still needed about 75 more tears to get the final memory, thus gaining access to the mountain. I was able to backtrack through the map and go through the areas again without the pressure of quests. I could take in the scenery while keeping an eye out for places I missed or couldn’t access before.

When the final memory was unlocked, I had access to go up the mountain. I cried. A lot. I think Tyke kept it together better than I did. I won’t say much else; you’ll have to experience this game for yourself.

The only downside to Pine Hearts was that there were a few glitches. At one point, Tyke got stuck walking in place, and the only way for me to fix it was to exit to the Switch homepage. Also (and this is more of a personal preference), I would have liked to save the game whenever I wanted. It autosaved often enough, but I would have liked more control over when and where it saved, especially since the game would freeze or lag at each autosave. Otherwise, my entire experience was smooth and relaxing, with lullaby-like music playing in the background.

Overall, Pine Hearts is a short and (bitter)sweet title. If you’re looking for a new cozy adventure that tells an amazing story in a sensitive manner, then certainly give this one a go. You won’t be disappointed. (And yes, you can pet the dog!)