Heal is a clever, albeit short game with an emotive story revealed by completing puzzles.
Heal is a short 2D side-scrolling puzzle game by sole developer Jesse Makkonen. It released on Steam and as Heal: Pocket Edition for mobile devices on April 10, 2020. Jesse’s previous games include Silence of the Sleep (2014), Distraint: Deluxe Edition (2015) and Distraint 2 (2018), all with atmospheric horror themes. I haven’t played any of those games, but I liked the look of Heal and I do love me a good puzzle game. Heal utilises similar hand-drawn art and lighting as Distraint 2, but this time you play as an old man in a dimly lit home. You walk through seven different connected rooms, solving puzzles to advance the story and ultimately reveal the overall message being conveyed.
You move the old man with the mouse, clicking to move him forward or backward through each room. The room size is limited by darkness and it doesn’t take long to learn the mechanics of the game. You move the man through the room until you reach an object such as a radio, door, window, mirror, or be hidden by a pile of boxes. An icon pops up above the object allowing you to interact with it. You are then faced with a number of puzzles of varying in complexity.
The solutions to the puzzles sometimes aren’t apparent at first. Some puzzles are mechanical, requiring you to manipulate pieces or numbers. Others require more thinking and often more information that you don’t have initially. Initially I started to write little details down, like numbers or shapes that are shown to you. There’s no need to do this though as further exploration of the room will reveal solutions, and not necessarily in the order you come across each puzzle.
I did get stuck on a couple of the puzzles and it was a this point that my wife Heather told me, “don’t think too hard.” I was given evidence of a solution, I just didn’t know what to do with the information. After spending several head-scratching minutes trying to figure these out, I do admit to looking up a walkthrough for these. I then had the head smack and “dahhh” moment when I saw what the solutions were – my wife was right, don’t overthink them. Otherwise, all other puzzles are logical and clever. The heartfelt message conveyed at the end once you complete all seven rooms is worthy of your play time.
Once you complete the seventh room, a final number code is revealed. Going back to the main menu allows you to repeat all seven of the puzzle rooms. Going back to room two, I was able to enter the number code from the end of room seven, into a phone that revealed another piece of the emotional puzzle which was a nice touch. There were a couple of other achievements I didn’t complete, some of which revolved around finishing the game under a time limit. It took me just under 2 hours to finish the game, so it is very short when compared to many games these days.
Overall I gave the game a 7/10. Heal is a clever, albeit short game with an emotive story revealed by completing puzzles. It’s for those nights when you just feel like chilling in a game that doesn’t require talking to others and doesn’t include any combat or twitch movement. You just sit back and click away, tackling the puzzles at your own pace. At AUD9.95, I think it’s worth the money spent if you like these types of puzzle games and are happy to support independent developers like Jesse Makkonen.
Written by: @ChrisJInglis