Know By Heart Switch Review – Leave It Out, Misha

Memories are important for those left behind, but now those memories are fading. What next for Misha in Know By Heart on the Switch?

There’s an ever-so-slight amount of pressure with this Know By Heart review that bothered me whilst playing and writing it up. Why? Because it’s already been released on several other platforms, and when I received the notification of its release on the Switch, there was an accolades trailer.

Usually, when I write a review, it’s based on a new title and all of us reviewers, writers, bloggers and/or sociopaths sync and release roughly simultaneously. Would others skew my opinion? A little. First impressions of this character-driven… erm, open-world-ish story were good on the presentation side.

Each 3D character in Know By Heart is faceless, much like Mosaic (a little), Dreamscaper, and perhaps even Absolver. It’s a stylish approach but has connotations for the story’s underlying themes. You know what? This looks like a pretty decent game on the Nintendo Switch. Maybe these accolades were justified.

Know By Heart Switch Review - Another day in paradise
Another day in paradise. Source: PR

Know By Heart Switch Review

You play Misha, a bit of a sad sack who remains in his hometown with a monotonous existence, where all his friends – even his parents – have moved on and left for new pastures. The opening scene was ambiguous, where you play a younger version of him, shifting through abstract ideas and many semiotics. Wait – is this going to be overly complex? No.

Our first ‘day in the life’ as you get up, get dressed, get scolded by your ‘uncle’ for being late for work, then get a lift to the workplace by a cop who has just arrested one of your neighbours, leaving their kids to fend for themselves. Ignore that bit for a second – customers are waiting. Now, this is the fun part: approving permits so that the locals can use the train in an assumed Papers, Please manner. Still haven’t played it.

Misha’s job is incredibly tedious, but he doesn’t show any signs that he’s unhappy and quite content with this existence. Suck it up – you’re about to experience it as you must manually type in each customer name using the Switch’s main and shoulder buttons. No doubt this is to reinforce the tedium, but I quite liked this element. Know By Heart has plenty of mini-games – typically jigsaw puzzles.

Know By Heart Switch Review - Trained well
Trained well. Source: PR

P-A-R-T-Y? Coz I Gotta

It all kicks off when an aunt has a birthday, and Misha’s childhood friends return from their exciting lives to reminisce with him. Up until this point, about 20 minutes in, I was bored. The world map also employs this jigsaw mechanic, so you aren’t entirely sure where you are or what you must do, as there are no objectives or menu options. Eventually, I found that an area had been circled on the map, yet no idea what I was supposed to be doing there until bumping into one of the, let’s say… antagonists.

Know By Heart is like a melancholy version of Family Guy flashbacks. “Remember that time when…” pops up, but instead of a full-blown montage, the scenery adapts to include some props from the past, and Misha must walk through some orbs (bubbles) to recall a sentence about the memory and essentially relive it. These memories are triggered by piles of leaves scattered around the maps. Stand on them for a moment, and a new memory will unfold.

It’s a nice concept, and without giving anything away other than the theme here is about memories, and it’s a game by Ice-Pick Lodge (Pathologic 2), you might draw some conclusions that this won’t be a walk in the park. It’s mostly a walking simulator than an actual adventure, and there will be key areas where you can decide whether to act upon something or respond with a line that has consequences. YES! Choices matter and there are multiple endings.

Forget About It

I found Know By Heart to be aesthetically pleasing. The art style was very pleasant throughout, and the use of classical music for the memories was lovely. The writing was excellent, and the actual concept and story were great. However, some janky animation and hit-and-miss voice acting spoiled moments of serenity or profound shared memories. There was a vulnerability to Misha, which I found appealing, but now and then, it was spoiled by some acted dialogue that sounded like an insincere table read.

While the visuals appealed to me, the number of times Misha would teleport from a bus, or when a scene changed, the controls would change, creating the impression of hitting invisible walls (also here) and general confusion, which was also there. And, while this is totally opinion, as per it is a review based on my experience of Know By Heart, some of the dialogue between Misha and Asya is contradictory, and to be honest, I’d have been happy sticking to my desk job, stamping permits.

Verdict

Persuaded by others to give a fantastic review? Sorry, no. There’s a lot going for Know By Heart – mostly the story and ambience, but a few technicalities and occasional monotony don’t make this the opus I was expecting. Still good, but read some other reviews and make your own judgement.