The elderly: They gripe, whine about how much things were better in their day, and single-handedly keep Breylcreem on the market. With their crotchety demeanor and endless demands for senior discounts, the sight of white hair serves as a shining beacon of unpleasantness. Still, with a strong moral center - the spirit of human solidarity ever-reverberating in our collective heart - we protect them. Stranger still, some of us even love them.
Such sentimental bother finds itself in Heart's Hollow, the first game from Bitter Playhouse, an indie developer based in Cape Town, South Africa. As "gay gamers who wanted to see more gender unbiased games in the marketplace," they decided to create their own title. You take on the role of Charlie (whether male or female): old lady-sitter by day, sleuth by night. In a correspondence with the creators, Heart's Hollow story is said to be darker and more adult than what one might expect, juxtaposed with gameplay that "remains fairly simple, quirky and funny."
The game has a rather basic foundation: As the resident housekeeper, tackling chores will earn you hearts. Meanwhile, keeping the resident grannies from killing themselves (via stairs and other such obstacles) is of the utmost importance, as doing so will break the stack of hearts you have accumulated by completing tasks. You can also summon an "echo" of yourself, whose assistance (in your spectral slavery arrangement) can greatly increase your productivity. This comes at a cost to your speed; however, the penalty can be lessened by "upgrades" to the ability, which come at the cost of - you guessed it - those precious, precious hearts. These can also be used to upgrade your other abilities, such as more delicious cupcakes to tempt the grannies' respective palates, music boxes to lull your lovelies into sonic submission, and a few other goodies.
Still, there is a case to be solved here, and your red, thumpy, lovey currency can also be used "uncover clues to the mystery, unlock new conversations, interrogate suspects, or nurture romance with any of the interactive visitors," be they male or female. The game has multiple endings, "ranging from romantic to homicidal," depending on your investigative prowess and, of course, your debonair charms.
Read on, check out the gallery, and discover how you can support the project, after the jump!
The game is currently in need of funding, and as such, has taken to Kickstarter to raise money for development. Bitter Playhouse has set a goal of $12,000, with 45 days left. Although there's still quite a ways to go, Bitter Playhouse is currently in the position of being a new developer, and as such, is currently on the long, tedious climb up the unforgiving face of Mt. Exposure. For those who would support the project, but are concerned about what happens if the project does not reach its goal, it's worth noting that as per the Kickstarter FAQ, funds raised for such projects are cancelled, effectively refunding pledged donations.
If funded, the game should be available in Spring of 2013 for Windows, Mac, and the iPad.
The idea of ambiguous sexual orientation - i.e. not having characters cast as explicitly straight, gay, or bisexual - is still a novel one. Story and character development take primacy - almost all of our favorite characters have had a set orientation, assuming sexuality even played a part - but when done correctly, the non-static approach is a welcome, and ultimately quite sensible way of tackling the issue. The interactive nature of video games helps to accommodate this: With open relationship options, one can effectively play the game as gay, straight, or bisexual, depending on the player's own orientation.
Still, mindlessly throwing money at anything gay/gay-friendly is a rather silly endeavor - progressive ideas alone do not a good game make - and luckily, Heart's Hollow does look like it would make an enjoyable title. It's still in a very early stage, but the pairing of "casual" elements with detective work - feeding into the "terrible secret" of the town - is rather appealing.
So for those interested in Heart's Hollow, and want to learn more about the title, check out the Kickstarter account. As for those who are into this whole "social media" craze, rather than shunning human contact like
me some kind of forlorn, basement-dwelling vampire, check out Bitter Playhouse on Facebook and Twitter!