Relaxing games with little to no gameplay and exploration have their place in today’s gaming landscape. I really do believe that the “walking simulator” can be a truly uplifting experience. When presented with easy-to-use mechanics and an engaging story, some of the best games are the simplest. From Heaven to Earth is the latest of these games that is trying to grab your attention between your next major AAA title playthrough. Does it know the assignment?
Confusingly named From Heaven to Earth is a sequel to From Earth to Heaven which was released in 2021, From Heaven to Earth is a mirror mode of its predecessor in that you must this time (you guessed it) travel from heaven to earth. The story is played out between levels with a short narrative paragraph with some philosophical drone justifying your journey back to earth.
You play as an “eternal being” or so the blurb tells us, as any eternal powers besides reincarnation when you die are non-existent. The aim of the game is to make it to the portal at the end of each stage, split into areas made up of five stages each. There are no enemies or laser beams here, just get from A to B and enjoy yourself. This is easier said than done.
The areas are each delivered as their own zen-like dreamscape. You will genuinely love the aesthetics here as they are beautiful landscapes which vary from cosmic-like purple sparkling cubes to snow covered glaciers afloat in the ocean. Each stage in the area contains various moving and non-moving platforms you must traverse to reach the goal. Hurricanes made from stars (star-icanes ?) and boost pads propel you high in the air to reach platforms above or in the distance. These are fickle and often don’t provide the needed lift or distance needed; something which is an annoyance throughout.
Assisting you on the way are double jump power ups which give you a one time only use of the double jump. Movement in the game is floaty and dare I say frustrating, so much so that you will want to go right into the options menu and adjust the settings to feel less like you are strapped to a zero-G astronaut test chamber. Even with this setting adjusted, movement is floaty however.
Jumps must be made very precise, almost forcing pinpoint accuracy or you face a fall and then a restart right at the beginning of the level. Checkpoints are non-existent and this became a major annoyance during my playthrough, even though levels are all quite short to complete. Edge of your seat jumps are frequent and not in a good way, and so From Heaven to Earth slowly became one giant headache as I made my way back to firm ground.
Zen state of mind was the goal of the soundtrack here. Perhaps best described as future synth panpipes, the music in From Heaven to Earth is for sure a high point (pun intended) in a game full of lows. You’ll definitely need to make sure to adjust the sliders if you want to hear the story between levels though, as the music at default completely drowns out the spoken sections of the story.
There are no scoreboards, timer, point system or sense of achievement (outside of actual achievements, but we will get to that) given in the game, leading to a definitive one and done experience. As for the aforementioned achievements, the game is quite generous with its dishing out of the old Xbox Gamerscore. Upon entering a level you are awarded a sweet fifty and upon completion of an area you get handed another fifty. Accompanying this in each of the eleven areas is a secret in one of the stages for a further fifteen Gamerscore. Yep, you’re looking at the usual 1000 Gamerscore for finishing everything that From Heaven to Earth has to offer.
Summarising the game, and this is not the relaxing experience that the visuals and soundtrack portray it to be. Sure it looks lovely at times and the music is spot on, but it just isn’t enough. Several teeth grinds were made while I failed over and over again thanks to the floaty control scheme and at no point was I ever thinking that I would be satisfied by the conclusion. Spoilers – I wasn’t. You see with no real story throughout, there is a disconnect between your main objective and caring for the character. Many games in this style utilise a voiceover throughout which pays off way more than just sound scape style music. From Heaven to Earth shows all of its cards by the end of the first stage; a hand that is not that great.
From Heaven to Earth is a tough one to recommend for any real reason, unless you were a big fan of those panpipe guys from the high streets of the early 2000s or are a hardcore platformer fan who has exhausted all other options. From Heaven to Earth wants to provide a relaxing zen time – maybe it could have, had the controls been tightened and the frustrating movement made smooth.
Even then I would probably save the cash for a panpipe CD over picking this one up.
From Heaven to Earth is available from the Xbox Store