Know by Heart is an adventure game with a great concept where memories fade over time but it is stuck in an annoying experience.
know by heart is an adventure game developed and published by Ice-Pick Lodge. The game has a great concept regarding the way memories fade over time, but it is wasted on a story stuck in dull and long sessions of boring narration.
know by heart is set in a Russian provincial town in the years after the fall of the Soviet Union. The main character is Mikhail, known as “Misha” by his friends. Misha spends his days in a dead-end job at a train station, fondly remembering the days of his childhood and the time he spent with his friends, who have all left town and gone to better things. His friends all return for a reunion and Misha gets the chance to reconnect with Asya, the girl he loved in his childhood. However, the reunion is interrupted by a strange event that threatens to take away the animal that Misha is most dear to.
The gameplay in know by heart is similar to that of a point-and-click adventure game, although the emphasis is more on exploration than puzzle-solving. know by heart gives the player a free run through the city and they can explore the whole story. The purpose of know by heart is to learn the history of its characters and city, with a few basic minigames and set pieces scattered throughout the runtime.
The biggest problem with know by heart is that the story tells more than it shows. Most of the game consists of dry narration of characters reminiscing about their very ordinary childhoods. It’s hard to talk about the big twist without ruining the story, but it has all kinds of interesting storytelling opportunities that are never tapped into. The majority of know by heart‘s runtime is just characters talking in front of static images or standing in ordinary environments. know by heart also does nothing interesting with its setting, to the point where it could easily be placed in the contemporary United States of America or Great Britain, without significant changes.
The images in know by heart are simple and functional, the main gimmick being that the character models have no faces. A similar gimmick was used in dreamscaper, with characters that have a mannequin-like appearance. This gimmick fits the premise of know by heart and it’s one of the most memorable aspects of the design. The soundtrack in know by heart is one of the best aspects of the game, with its constant piano riff picking up and slowing down to match the action. The quality of the voice acting is more of a mixed bag, which is not a good sign for a game with so much dialogue.
As for the game, know by heart loves his puzzle minigames with matching shapes. A large part of the game consists of matching photo pieces or parts of a broken card, which makes up the bulk of the gameplay. The exploration of the city would have been improved by making it smaller or introducing fast travel points, as the main character’s movement speed feels painfully slow, with parts of the game where you run backwards and forwards through the same environments. know by heart only takes about four hours to complete a standard playthrough, with a few more hours added to find all the optional scenes and map pieces, and it feels like the exploration and some minigames were only added to fill up the runtime.
know by heart contains a carefully curated story and the sense of nostalgia comes from a real place, but it doesn’t sell its story in an entertaining way. know by heart involves a character getting a reprieve from their boring jobs to relive happier times with their friends, but they just passed their boredom onto the player.
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know by heart is available now for PC, PS4 and Xbox One, with a Nintendo Switch version arriving in the future. Screen Rant is provided with a digital code for the PC version of the game for this review.
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