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Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Pros: Great story, extremely engaging, gorgeous to look at.
Cons: Collectibles -- containing a lot of the historical detail -- can sometimes be hard to see.
Bottom Line: Part history lesson, part action, part puzzler, all wrapped inside a sincere and emotional story that builds skills, historical knowledge, and empathy.
Students can work in teams to solve the puzzles, and they can journal individually about what the story, chapter by chapter, makes them think about. What does Karl and Emile’s relationship make you think about? What do you think about conscription? What was trench warfare like, and how do you think modern warfare differs?
Students might also endeavor to find all the collectibles, which would "unlock" all the information "hidden" in the game. Students might be tasked with annotating as much useful and interesting information from the game as possible, which would most likely require them to read every text document and every description of an object or item.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a 2-D puzzler with some action centering on a handful of characters, each caught up in World War I. Either conscripted, out for vengeance, or out to help those in need of aid, each character is well developed and matters to the story -- including the player's ever-valiant companion, Walt the dog. Players solve environmental puzzles and progress through the story, which features historical markers that help place characters realistically in specific battles or other contexts.
Presented in a cartoony, comic book-style sheen, the overall art design is beautiful and crisp. But Valiant Hearts does not shy away from the brutalities of war: loss, devastation, death, injustice, and suffering. Once through to the end, players may shed a tear or two, and perhaps may even draw some connections to modern life and conflicts.
While Valiant Hearts was made for a general audience, middle school is most likely the game’s best fit. World War I collectibles are scattered about each level, and finding them will reveal in-depth descriptions and background information about the item or object. Often very fascinating, these historical fact sheets are perfect for day projects and activities that would require closer looks at the relevance and importance of certain objects, tools, advancements in technology, and/or other artifacts that help illuminate what life was like for the soldiers and citizens of war-inflicted nations. Also, a helpful outline of the timeline and events structures each level, and each page contains yet more historical information, facts, and important events of the war. This factual information, while great, is supplemental to play wherein players mainly solve puzzles and advance the story. Better marriage of these two elements would make the experience really extraordinary for students.