Interstitial – Our Hearts Intertwined: A Review
From Linksmith Games (the creative outlet of Riley Hopkins) – legally distinct tabletop roleplaying games, as their website states – comes Interstitial – Our Hearts Intertwined. Interstitial is a Powered by the Apocalypse game all about our connections with others and the power that is drawn from those connections, all birthed from a successful Kickstarter than ran in late 2019. The game master guides the players between worlds as they meet new friends and enemies and maybe – just maybe – learn something about themselves along the way.
In short, the game is Kingdom Hearts with the serials filed off – and I love it.
As I mentioned above, Interstitial is a Powered by the Apocalypse game. Over the coming weeks, you’ll likely be hearing me talk about this particular philosophical system for gaming. At their core, PbtA games are about – as put by the creator of the idea, Vincent Baker, in his Apocalypse World game – roleplaying as conversation. Some of these games, such as Interstitial, lean heavily on Apocalypse World’s mechanics of attribute driven rolls from a pair of six-sided dice modified by attributes – in this case, Light, Dark, Mastery, and Heart. These attributes back moves – actions players can take that are suggested by the narrative itself. Each character is built around an archetype shown in a playbook that lists special moves and advancements the character has access to and have links – their emotional connections that they can use for various effects – to those they meet and find various attachments to.
My first exposure to this system was from Kingdom Hearts: The Interstitial War, an actual play that I have previous whole heartedly recommended. Everything that game has showed me so far and everything I get from reading the rule book, shows this as the narratively heavy game with enough additional combat moves added in to make it feel like the legally distinct from Kingdom Hearts game that it is.
And, just like Kingdom Hearts, the game is incredibly simple to pick up and get in to; of the 61 page rulebook, only about fifteen of those are the actual rules you’ll need to look over to play, some of which are focused towards the players and some of which are focused towards the game master. The remaining pages are taken up by the playbooks the characters will use, providing fifteen various archetypes for players to embody at the table, along with a brief original setting in the back of the book before a couple pages of thanks to the backers who made this game possible on Kickstarter. The game being so simple is not a detriment in any way; in play, the focus becomes the interaction between players and game master as they tell their story and less on the mechanics that marginally frame the entire thing. This is a genre game intent on telling a particular type of story, not the semi-simulationist games that lean more heavily on crunch that a lot of players are much more familiar with.
Just like Kingdom Hearts. I know I keep saying that but I can’t help but repeat it once more – in play, this feels like simple and clean, just like playing Kingdom Hearts on your Playstation. It’s not overly complicated, you don’t get bogged down with mechanics, you just get pulled into the story and swept along on an amazing and frankly absurd journey that may or may not make sense – but you have inordinate amounts of fun the entire time.
I highly recommend giving Interstitial a try. Whether this is your first exposure to Powered by the Apocalypse or your tenth, your first exposure to Kingdom Hearts-esque stories or the most recent in a long line of hype fueled tastes, I can almost guarantee you’ll find something to love sitting down at the tables with a few friends and hashing out one of these stories backed by this framework.