Else Heart.Break(): hacking and soda pop

It all starts with a phone call. The Wellspring soda company calls your house and offers you a job as a salesman in the city of Dorisburg. The next day you’re stepping off a boat into a strange new world.

This is the setup for else Heart.Break(), a adventure game that blends point-and-click with open-world elements, and the ability to manipulate the world around you using a built-in programming language.

As unassuming hero Sebastian settles into his new life, he meets a cast of oddball characters, including an underground society of hackers, and falls in love. But his first port of call in my playthrough was the Devotchka, a run-down hotel near the docks that Wellspring is footing the bill for. When I got the key from the clerk and opened the door to my room, I discovered it was actually a toilet. I complained to the clerk and she called up a handyman. I followed him to my room and watched him use some kind of computer on the door. He wandered off and I went in again, this time finding a proper room with a bed.
When I opened the door to my room, I discovered it was actually a toilet
This is your first clue that the world of else Heart.Break() isn't quite like our own. The developer describes it as a place where bits have replaced atoms. Computers are directly connected to their physical surroundings in this world.

Terminals are scattered around the game. Interact with one and it’ll zoom to fill your screen, and you can type commands. Sometimes this is just for fun I found a movie name generator and a text-based Lunar Lander but they’re also used for solving puzzles.

In an early example, a Wellspring employee took me to the warehouse to pick up my first batch of soda. To unlock the door, I had to access the terminal, type in ‘unlock’, then the password. This teaches the basics of interacting with computers, but other puzzles will be more challenging, using the game’s bespoke coding language.

One of the most striking things about the game is its art. Your view is elevated and isometric, and you can spin the camera around with WASD. The environments are blocky and low-poly, but they pack in a remarkable degree of detail.

Lead developer Niklas Åkerblad is better known as El Huervo, a musician whose tunes were recently featured on the  Hotline Miami  soundtrack. His music features lazy hip-hop beats, crackly samples, and glitchy ambience, and married with the visuals it creates a unique atmosphere.

I’m looking forward to exploring more of Dorisburg, and getting to know its colourful residents. else Heart.Break() has a very distinctive style and I love the concept of a world that can be manipulated using computers. The game’s website asks “Who will get their heart broken in the end?” I can’t wait to find out.

Release date? Not decided yet, but pretty soon! It will be on Mac and PC, probably Linux too.

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