It’s commonplace for a time-management game to feature character-driven plot, but Time to Heal sells itself really hard on narrative. The intro frames it as an original story. The game’s bumf is really focused on storytelling (and, in particular, that most irritating qualifier of Legitimate Narrative, ‘it made me cry’.) The plot opens in media res, in a flash-forward to the mid-game climax. Part of its gloss is an original soundtrack – melancholy singer-songwriter guitar stuff, pitch-perfect for the kind of heartache-by-the-numbers drama it’s aiming for.
The typical plot arc of time-management games, post Diner Dash, is straightforward Horatio Alger: a plucky protagonist grows their humble store into a business empire. Time to Heal aspires to combine this arc with a medical drama show; rather than growing a business, its heroine Allison Heart is building a career.
There are two things that drive a standard TV medical drama. One is the inherently high, emotionally-charged stakes: life, death, fertility, fear, suffering, the drowned and the saved; people at their most vulnerable and broken, on some of the worst (and occasionally best) days of their lives. The other thing is attachment to an ensemble cast, a surrogate family: this succeeds when the audience likes the regular cast, gets the sense of a circle of close friends, and feels included in it.
Heart’s Medicine knows this. It knows that these are emotional notes it has to hit. It devotes a lot of energy to them, and it doesn’t really succeed – and this is entirely due to the sheer weight of constraints it’s under. Continue reading