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Walt, the last of our heroes, is a Doberman Pincher trained by the German forces to be a canine medic. Serving almost as our conscience and a physical manifestation of the missing innocence of war, he meets Emile and instantly bonds with him. Through Emile’s adventures he later meets the rest of our heroes and they all use him to help achieve their end goals—complete with a pat on the head, or a tummy rub for each good deed done.
The mechanic of using Walt to complete various puzzles works smoothly, and the attention to detail can especially be seen when using him. By pressing the key that offers up Walt’s available commands, the screen will turn black-and-white, mirroring his viewpoint, as we all know dogs are colorblind.
The puzzles don’t always utilize Walt, and offer up to three hints if you find yourself stuck. In my entire play-through I tried as hard as possible to avoid using hints and managed to only have to use one near the end of the game. That being said, that doesn’t mean the puzzles are insanely easy, so much as it means that you will often have to be more patient to discover a solution.
Anna, too, has a unique minigame tied to her efforts as a nurse. When approaching a downed solider or civilian, a Rock Band style quicktime event will trigger where you must press the correct combination of buttons in the correct order, or risk losing the person you’re trying valiantly to save.
Additionally, Anna comes across a car and at different parts of the game will use it to help our heroes traverse large areas of the Western Front. During these segments you get to control the car in a small minigame, avoiding obstacles and incoming attacks. Additionally, these moments are punctuated by the use of famous orchestral pieces—a la the Infernal Gallop (better known as the music for the Can Can) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Flight of the Bumblebee. Enemy machine guns and bombs trying to derail your vehicle as it goes down the road punctuate each instrumental swell and slam of an ivory key. Oddly enough it brings a kind of beauty to the concussive anarchy that is warfare.
As you can see, Valiant Hearts: The Great War manages to dispel just about every notion the industry currently has about the steadfast nature of war games. Yes, they may simply be more accessible when delivered via the FPS genre, but haven’t we moved past a fervent need for accessibility? Isn’t it time that innovation started showing up on store shelves as opposed to only through digital releases?
According to the ESA’s 2013 report, over 53% of Americans alone play video games, and the industry itself brings in nearly $22 billion—that’s a safe assumption that mere accessibility cannot hold back creativity any longer. We’re here, we’re comfortable, and with the average gamer sitting pretty over the age of 30, change now will only foster the desire for something better in generations to come without frightening away the current population.
All in all, as I tuck away my soapbox until the next time, there is one point I cannot stress enough when it comes to Valiant Hearts. If you haven’t played this game yet, and that’s okay because it is still relatively new, you’d be doing yourself a considerable disservice to avoid it.