Heal Review

Welcome to Heal, the second entry in Jesse Makkonen’s Trilogy of Gloom.

That’s not entirely true; I have no idea how many games the creator of Heal has planned, but after playing this and Distraint before it, I’m guessing his next title isn’t going to be about rearing orphaned kittens. I’m happy to report, however, that Heal – despite its subdued hues –  isn’t nearly as miserable as its predecessor.

This short, puzzle-driven adventure casts you as an unnamed elderly man who, due to his passing resemblance to Sir Patrick Stewart, I’m going to call Wrinkly Patrick. Wrinkly Patrick has an off-on-off relationship with reality, for reasons that become distressingly apparent. Instead of being stuck in a rotting apartment block, he roams through warped versions of his living room. Your task, as you guide him around each of the seven levels (six normal sized and one short finale), is to crack various logic puzzles.

Sometimes, the information you glean from solving one of Heal‘s puzzles goes directly towards solving another, but typically they can be solved independently. In terms of challenge, they aren’t a million miles away from those you’d find in an upmarket escape room. What’s particularly charming about Heal‘s puzzles, though, is that they all sport a similar etched brass aesthetic.

Heal always looks gorgeous; the visuals shifting when you step into a new iteration of your room or, on occasion, Wrinkly Patrick’s back garden. But exploring the puzzles is a joy in itself. You’ll unfold plates to reveal the challenge inside, as if you’re unboxing some Victorian treasure. Each puzzle is unique, too; one minute you’ll be guiding a ball round a small maze, and the next you’ll be reconnecting a steampunk-style fusebox.

Symbolism also plays a part, to the point where, even after you’re long done with Heal‘s puzzles, you’ll be dwelling on their significance. Is it a coincidence the valve and wheel arrangement looks like a car dashboard? Why does the game sometimes have you playing the piano? And why won’t it give me enough piano keys to play the theme from Jurassic Park? Okay, maybe that last one’s not so important, but throw in a mournful, slightly discordant soundtrack and you’ve got a game that oozes atmosphere.

Heal uses text very sparingly which, for the most part, works very well (and, I suspect, made it much easier to translate it into other languages). But there a couple of occasions when I felt like punching my screen precisely because the rules to a puzzle weren’t made clear. One, for example, seemed to defy logic and so I had to tackle it through sheer trial and error, without the satisfaction I got from cracking the others.

A sense of unease seeps in as you begin to piece together the truth behind this old gent’s unsettling predicament. His slow, measured movement ensures you’ve got plenty of time to dwell on Heal‘s unfolding events, and the brief flashes of memory you’ve observed thus far. At one point I considered leaving the puzzles alone, leaving him in limbo, just because I didn’t want to be right. Heal isn’t a long game; it’ll likely take you only a couple of hours to reach its conclusion, with a pause to shout at that one frustrating puzzle. But you’ll still be engrossed by this OAP’s otherworldly outing.

Heal is available on PC. Our review is based on a code provided by the publisher.