Valiant Hearts: The Great War review – an emotional gutpunch

Valiant Hearts The Great War cover

"Edutainment": a word that makes a generation shudder, haunted by memories of shoddy classroom software trying to "gamify" learning.

If only history classrooms had Valiant Hearts, which successfully brings the horror of the first world war home but remains eminently gripping.

Despite its animated approach, the game plucks at the heartstrings. Experiencing the opening days of the conflict from the perspective of several characters, players see the human costs of war, intercut with snippets of real-world information or correspondence from the trenches. Hence the edutainment, but here it's more emotional gutpunch than dull lecture.

Each character has a particular skill – American soldier Freddie can cut barbed wire, for instance – though most progress is made through relatively simple environmental puzzles. Irritatingly, character outlines become extremely pixellated in close-up.

It's only problematic during cutscenes, but the jaggies really pull you out of the moment. With Valiant Hearts' strength being in its story, that's a disappointment in an otherwise superb game.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Matt Kamen, for The Observer on Sunday 20th July 2014 00.05 Europe/London

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