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Tiny Tales: Heart of the Forest Review


We’ve been banging the same critical drum when it comes to Artifex Mundi’s hidden object games. Too often, they tread the same ground. We’ve lost count of the number of necromancers and demons we’ve dispelled, and how many damsels we’ve rescued from them. When we’re not exploring gloomy mansions, we are hacking through forests. 

If the last few releases are anything to go by, things seem to be changing for the better. Yuletide Legends: Who Framed Santa Claus? gave the damsel a Father Christmas outfit, while Tibetan Quest: Beyond the World’s End swapped the mansions and forests for the mountains of East Asia. And now we have Tiny Tales: Heart of the Forest, which does have a damsel and a forest, but everything is one-twentieth size. You’re playing a character the size of a Borrower, which is at least a wee bit new.

Tiny Tales Heart of the Forest review 1
A Tiny Tale in the Heart of the Forest

You play Max, a Tom Thumb-type who is living alone with his mum after his dad goes missing (a plot point that may become valuable later on). They’re crippled by taxes imposed by their rat overlords, so Max enrols in the kingdom’s archery tournament to earn some cash. So far, so Disney’s Robin Hood. 

At the tournament, overseen by the King, Queen and Princess, a cat bounds in. It kidnaps the Princess, and you’re led on a quite literal cat-and-mouse chase. If you can recover the Princess, there’s a mighty bounty that will solve all your monetary problems. So off you go, solving puzzles, finding objects, and trying to stay ahead of a rival who is flagrantly cheating by riding on a rabbit.

This is all the framework for a familiar spot of hidden objecting. If you’re expecting a deviation from the formula then you’re a greater optimist than we are, as this is conventional stuff. It’s just got the benefit of being dressed in Honey I Shrunk the Kids clothing. 

We didn’t play a minigame that we hadn’t played a dozen times or more in other Artifex games. Tiny Tales: Heart of the Forest loves the storybook puzzles where you are given a picture and told some backstory, before finding symbols from that backstory in the scene. They’ve been done to death in their other games, and they’re concentrated here. But there are also knot puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, memory games and symbol-matching, which is to say that this represents a greatest hits of Artifex Mundi.

Tiny Tales Heart of the Forest review 3
Keep on hunting

The hidden object scenes are slightly more engaging. There’s a lot of them, for a start, which is not something we take for granted – they have been thin on the ground in recent titles. They are highly interactive, pushing you to lift and nudge the objects in the scene to find other objects. And they’re varied: some give you an outline, others give you a shopping list, while yet more ask you to find singular items multiple times, from coins to feathers. As you’d expect from the publisher, these scenes are all clear, artful and buttery smooth. We only struggled to find an item on one or two occasions.

The item management and the logic that binds them together is fine too. The biggest criticism we could level at the graphic adventure stuff is that interactions don’t work when we often think they should. A razer or cloth can’t be used to cut or clean something, just because the game has a different item in mind. It’s a common feeling in the Artifex Mundi games, but is more prevalent here than most.

There’s a touch of magic to events, as you’re given a spellbook and some situations that can only be resolved by a lightning bolt to the buttocks of an enemy. But these are ruses: there’s almost no thought put into them at all. Find symbols on your travels and they can be combined to form spells. But the symbols are automatically added, rather than arranged or concocted by you. They look like they might be puzzles, but fizzle as soon as you interact with them.

Tiny Tales: Heart of the Forest gets something of a pass, mostly because of its subject matter. All the usual puzzles and items are passed through an Arrietty filter. Buckets become thimbles, knives become fragments of broken pottery. By shrinking the usual adventure to a microscopic scale, the world looks new and the puzzles take on a different aspect. You won’t find a spanner or measuring jug to solve a problem, so you have to think in miniature terms. What can be adapted to play their role?

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A lovely world

That said, the small-scale theme is papering over some cracks, and we wish Artifex Mundi had the confidence to do something new with it. The story is the usual damsel in distress template, just with a mouse as the damsel. There are the same forests, just proportionally bigger. More damningly, there’s not a single new puzzle to tinker with, and the hidden object scenes – while pretty – play it safe. That’s before we get to the spellcasting, which feels like it was cut for time.

Tiny Tales: Heart of the Forest shows promise as a new series that will undoubtedly get five or six entries in the future. The pint-sized adventuring is too strong an idea to neglect. But in all other aspects this is formulaic, a tale that we’ve heard many, many times before.


  • Lovely artwork, as you’d expect
  • Borrowers-like world is great
  • Frictionless usability and presentation
  • Spellcasting is duff
  • Story is formulaic
  • Ends up all too safe
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC
  • Release date and price - 15 March 2024 | £12.49
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Lovely artwork, as you’d expect</li> <li>Borrowers-like world is great</li> <li>Frictionless usability and presentation</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Spellcasting is duff</li> <li>Story is formulaic</li> <li>Ends up all too safe</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, TXH</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PC <li>Release date and price - 15 March 2024 | £12.49</li> </ul>Tiny Tales: Heart of the Forest Review
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