Review: Time Princess - Heartwood Mysteries

Time Princess has definitely lost points for originality. Heartwood Mysteries, this month's new visual novel, is yet another murder mystery that takes place in early 20th-century England. This story is lighter than some of the recent grimdark stories it has released since it contains more romance and a potential ending where no one has to die. It has been six months since the game has done a true fairy tale retelling unless you count Lunar Legend from last December, which was loosely based on "Beauty and the Beast." They have been shying farther away from their royalty-inspired roots with each passing year. I still want to know what happened to their story about Catherine the Great. Regardless, I can appreciate this new release for what it was, especially for its cute gender-bent outfits inspired by Sherlock Holmes.

Heartwood Mysteries tells the story of Evelyn Heartwood, a private detective who dresses similarly to Sherlock Holmes but acts very differently. Unlike Sherlock, who is known to be cold and emotionless, Evelyn is sympathetic and emotional. She cares deeply about her clients and often makes jokes about crimes that break her "little wooden heart," a reference to the story's title that took me way too long to figure out. The mystery begins when a famous actress is poisoned, and Evelyn's team is hired to determine who did it. Since all of the victims and suspects are minor characters in the story, I found it difficult to get emotionally involved with them and didn't bother trying to figure out the mystery on my own, which isn't part of the gameplay anyway. I don't think the Time Princess decision-making format lends itself well to solving murder mysteries. For that, I would recommend the Phoenix Wright series. In this story, I found the love triangle between Evelyn and her companions far more compelling than the mystery.

Unlike the recent visual novels that put romance on the back end in favor of darker story elements, this one really played up the love triangle. With only two companions instead of three for a refreshing change, most of the story outcomes are based on the player's decision of which companion to follow. Allen is Evelyn's partner and the closest to a "Watson" character. He is outgoing, charismatic, and madly in love with Evelyn. Damian is a studious cop who works with Evelyn on her cases and is also madly in love with her. Many of the story's decisions and outcomes depend on Evelyn choosing between Allen and Damian's very different methods of handling investigations. The most Sherlock-like thing about Evelyn is that while she cares deeply about both men, she is completely oblivious to their feelings toward her. She is a savant who puts her detective work above anything else going on in her personal life, which makes it pretty amusing when she gets confused whenever the two men start fighting over her.

Time Princess did a good job of coming up with some unique designs for the fashions in this story. Instead of generic-looking European clothes, Evelyn's outfits are inspired by classic looks for Sherlock Holmes with some alterations to make them more feminine and historically accurate to the time period. I love her cover outfit of a green plaid dress and magnifying glass, which unfortunately has to be won through the game's lottery. She also has some formalwear, including a teal flapper-like dress and a silk floor-length ballgown with a narrow silhouette. The quality and uniqueness of these outfits make up for how similar this story is to other recent visual novels that the game has released. I like how even though the looks are clearly inspired by Sherlock Holmes, they added a lot of feminine flair to them like cute hats and jewelry.

Heartwood Mysteries may not be what I was hoping for from Time Princess, but I appreciate that it kept the mood lighter than some of their other stories with similar themes. Evelyn is an easy character to root for as a more empathetic Sherlock Holmes, and the costumes and love triangle were very cute. I like how the game provides a variety of endings with various levels of tragedy including one where nobody has to die at all. Considering how Time Princess seems to focus more on dark realistic stories of late and has virtually abandoned its previous formula of historical royalty and fairy tales, I think this is the best possible option for the genre. What's your favorite visual novel in Time Princess so far? Are you hoping to see more stories like this one in the future? Let me know in the comments!


Sugar said…
I haven't been playing for a long time, but honestly as long as I have a convincing love story I'll take what I'm given, I'm there for the romance!
I also admit that I love historical settings, and fiction, be it fantastic, gothic or terrifying settings, only stories set in the present day bore me!
Lisa Dawn said…
Oh no! Have I gotten you addicted too?
Anonymous said…
Thanks for the review! Your reviews are always helpful whenever I have to choose which story to play next.

I enjoyed the love triangle more than the mystery as well. Although,the story cleary favours one companion over the other,I'm curious,Who did you prefer as a love interest?
Lisa Dawn said…
Definitely Damian! Who's yours?
Anne said…
I prefer Damian as well!

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