While The Irons Hot Review – An Axe to Grind

7.0 TOTAL SCORE

While The Irons Hot Review

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While The Irons Hot Review

While The Iron's Hot is a relaxing, fun, slow game where you take on the challenge of smithing and rebuilding a village, it's unfortunately held back by a bad visual style, a somewhat confusing story, and gameplay that might make you feel bored at times. It has heart, but it's very rough and could've used more time.


Review Score 7
PROS
  • Fun gameplay loop that becomes pretty relaxing, mainly consisting of exploring and playing simplistic minigames.
  • Incredibly good music that I'd recommend giving a listen.
  • A bunch of content that'll keep you busy for hours.
CONS
  • Visual style that feels incohesive, somewhat ugly, and not great.
  • Story writing that leaves you feeling strange, not making sense at most points.
  • The lack of polish shows itself in quite a few bugs, some soft-locking the game.

Bontemps Games, a promising new Indie dev, has teamed up with Humble Games to bring us While the Iron’s Hot, a game all about blacksmithing that I took an interest in when I saw it back in the Wholesome Direct earlier this year. It looked to be a cozy game about rebuilding a town and getting some fun smithin’ done.

This promises to be a relaxing, Animal Crossing-esque game where you mostly hang around with townspeople and chill out to the comfortable gameplay, as well as having more exciting resource collection and exploration, but games that focus on capturing this vibe often fall flat, and we’ll have to dive in headfirst to see if this one is an exception.

In IGC’s review of While the Iron’s Hot, I’ll be running through all the mechanics that forge the gameplay and going over everything that either made me lose my cool or kept things fired up and engaging. There’s a considerable mix of good and bad, and I feel like this game still makes a quality finished product, but there are a few scratches and scuffs.

My Worries Are Smelting Away

While The Irons Review
This minigame requires you to time your button presses in order to smelt a bunch more materials, and it’s optional, meaning you can be bad at timing and still succeed with your bad output. – Image by Monica Phillips.

The gameplay of When The Iron’s Hot is super chill and primarily consists of minigames, sidequests, and some exploration and resource gathering. I’d say it’s pretty comparable to Animal Crossing in that way, barring the real-time day system. It’s pretty relaxing, though I have a few issues, namely in the energy system.

Every time you want to travel to different villages or locations to get various quests and materials, you have to travel across a top-down map, but each step you take will take up a bit of energy until you get something that basically negates it a few hours in. This energy system rarely comes into play outside of this, and it just means traveling is annoying for a while; I’d rather they just made this based on the day/night cycle.

Otherwise, you’ve got pleasant minigames with a somewhat high skill ceiling while not being too tricky, striking an excellent balance. If you’re worried about the resource collection making everything a bit stressful, it’s usually completely fine, just a bit slow, and for some reason, you have a dodge roll that doesn’t do much, but it’s funny, so screw it, good addition.

While The Irons scythe
Going around this big open map is exhausting both for me and my character, and even when I’ve got a ride, it’s pretty annoying. – Image by Monica Phillips.

There’s also some excellent quality of life, like pinning recipes to your HUD for easy reference and crafting tons of materials at once without it taking forever. The only quality of life I wish I had for the first few hours was, again, that damned traveling since going back and forth between town and your smithing station is the main gameplay loop. It gets a bit annoying, and even when it’s fixed, it’s still a bit of a hassle to set up camp every time you want to be somewhere for a while.

You’ll primarily be going to town, grabbing a few requests, making them with the materials you got from mining or chopping wood, playing minigames to smith things, and then taking those to the townspeople for money. On top of this, you progress through the story with similarly simple tasks, and it all feels pretty satisfying. This game feels very relaxing, and I’d recommend relaxing with this on a handheld in bed.

Iron to Steel

While The Irons puzzles
A lot of the progression comes in the form of little areas like this, with self-contained puzzles that feel quite fun. – Image by Monica Phillips.

Progression feels incredibly slow, but that’s okay for this type of game. It’ll take about 2-3 hours before you unlock a significantly new area, mainly giving you new spots to get resources and some new NPCs to talk to. Again, it’s similar to Animal Crossing, a lot faster, but still the same relaxing, slowgoing vibe, with a few puzzles and cool things thrown in.

You’ll get better tools, your town will get upgraded and filled with different people and buildings, you’ll find many interesting, unique locations, and it’ll all take a long time of relaxing and working your way to perfection. All these upgrades feel substantial, and it’s very satisfying to hammer out a few new things every day, and it kept me coming back.

Bent Out Of Shape

While The Irons visuals
The clashing visual style of this game is only more accentuated by the fact they’ve genuinely used Times New Roman for all the UI instead of anything stylized. – Image by Monica Phillips.

I don’t know how to say this without being incredibly blunt, but the visuals in While The Iron’s Hot feel like a Kickstarter pitch from 2015 that every Nintendo YouTuber would beg to come to the Wii U. Translation, it looks like decent pixel art that looks way worse the more you look at it with a few shaders thrown on top to try and cover up the fact that none of this meshes together.

Let’s start with the good stuff and work our way down—the characters and how they’re animated look nice, simplistic but stylized and goofy. The backgrounds are drawn pretty well and very detailed, and they didn’t go so hard on the shaders that it ever looks terrible; I can just tell it’s a patch job for some shoddily put-together art.

The UI is at a high resolution, about 4x the amount of the already detailed backgrounds, and it looks ugly, meshing that together on top of the simplistic art for the characters. On top of that, you get a normal ass font on top of the pixel art instead of anything stylized. None of this is aligned to a pixel grid, and the mixels drive me insane.

Credit where it’s due: Most of this looks great on its own, but it just feels like a different team worked on each part, and no one was in charge of ensuring everything worked together to create a cohesive, satisfying thing. It’s typically tolerable, but man, the potential here got tossed to bits; if it were just polished and reworked, it could be so incredible.

Banging Out the Tunes

Alright, back to the pleasant vibes. The music makes me happy, and it’s pretty catchy; I loved listening to it as I played the game. It brings a lovely mix of woodwinds and strings with a percussive backing that keeps things active and refreshing and instills joy in my heart. I played this game for a bit before a concert, and on the way home, I was still thinking about the game’s music.

It’s adorable; my only real complaint is that I want more. It’s mainly because the day theme can get played for quite a long time if you’re working on many projects at once, but usually, it’s all fine. A bit more variety, and this is bang-on, one of the best soundtracks of a game I’ve reviewed here; it’s so whimsical and lovely.

Writing the Blueprint

While The Irons snaky gang
Here, I’m being attacked by the un-cleverly named “Sneaky Gang,” and this dude just dies, but the protagonist straight up doesn’t even acknowledge it after looting his corpse. – Image by Monica Phillips.

The story in While the Iron’s Hot would be pretty good if it were present for most of the game. You wake up on a ship, the ship explodes, and you get stranded. Your character doesn’t care about the ship’s crew, or care that his ride home is gone, or care about much of anything going on around him; it’s just weirdly alienating that this milquetoast protagonist isn’t really thinking.

Otherwise, you’ll get glimpses of the story when you reach a new area and talk to some NPCs. It’s somewhat interesting, mostly revolving around the town losing its old blacksmith, with you filling that role and being so good at blacksmithing that you can improve things and charm people all around. It’s pretty nice and a bit more in-depth than most chill games.

Burning Out

While The Irons where is my character
Don’t see my character? That’s cause I clipped through the ground, I’m gone, and I was absolutely bewildered by this. – Image by Monica Phillips.

Unfortunately, a few technical burdens can worsen the experience, at least for the PC version. If you’ve been following my reviews for a bit, you probably know my new pet peeve is games with no graphical settings, and while this game has graphical settings, they don’t work sometimes; the buttons I press just don’t do anything.

I tried switching my window mode, and every time, it just reverted the change for no reason, on top of some other settings being a bit buggy, too. I also went into a big puzzle mansion and clipped through the floor at the bottom, but at least the game generally performs well, and it’ll be a surefire smooth experience once they’ve ironed out these bugs.

Firing Back Up

The replay value isn’t exactly through the roof with this game. You can choose what order you grab upgrades in to change your experience, and the requests you take on for money are slightly randomized. Still, otherwise, it’s not going to be a super different experience on a repeat playthrough. You’d mostly just be going through the same story, but again.

There are quite a few achievements to go for and some optional extras, but you’ve got endless no-pressure time to go and get all of those on a standard playthrough. None of these are particularly difficult to do, either, and you’re not punished for taking too long in terms of your day count, so yeah, one playthrough will satisfy you.

Alternatives

lunch rush cuisineer
Image by Monica Phillips of Cuisineer.

There’s a ton of cozy, chill games focusing on things that are just as cool as blacksmithing. I’ve got a few recommendations, particularly ones you can play for a long time but still have a great story mode that makes running through them a wonderful experience.

  • Slime Rancher and its sequel are both great games where you run around big, beautiful environments, collect a bunch of adorable slimes, design your lovely little home, and go through a surprisingly in-depth and touching story: fewer minigames, and more excellent content.
  • Moonstone Island is more similar to Stardew Valley while adding Pokemon and Slay the Spire to the mix. It sounds like a hodge-podge of weird genre mashups, but it works well while keeping that chill vibe that WTIH has, being an excellent, engaging time to check out.
  • Cuisineer is a lot more of an action game, being a cooking management simulator mashed up with a roguelite, but these two pair together exceptionally well with the adorable characters and art style, making for a game where you manage your time but still feel a real cozy, lovely vibe through it all.

The Verdict – 7/10

while the irons hot
Image from Humble Games.

Overall, I think this game could’ve used more time because even though it has some great, relaxing gameplay that makes me feel at ease when I’m playing it in bed at night, the mix of a visual style I don’t jive with and a story that feels confusingly implemented at best on top of the jank I’d experienced at several points in my playthrough makes me give it a 7/10.

It’s never to the point that I actively wanted to stop playing the game, but it’s always something nagging at me in the back of my head. Once you clip through the floor randomly in a game, it starts to get that weird buzz in your mind where you’re paranoid of falling through every floor you walk on, and you can’t trust anything anymore; it’s wack.

Nonetheless, most of my playthrough was a good experience, especially with the excellent music and gameplay loop. It all meshes together well enough; I can’t help but wish that the potential got a bit more realized, as with a great visual style and a far more refined gameplay experience, this game would be an exceptionally good one for any fan of cozy games.

Pros

  • Fun gameplay loop that becomes pretty relaxing, mainly consisting of exploring and playing simplistic minigames.
  • Incredibly good music that I’d recommend giving a listen.
  • A bunch of content that’ll keep you busy for hours.

Cons

  • Visual style that feels incohesive, somewhat ugly, and not great.
  • Story writing that leaves you feeling strange, not making sense at most points.
  • The lack of polish shows itself in quite a few bugs, some soft-locking the game.

Questions and Answers

Question: What platforms is While The Iron’s Hot on?

Answer: It’s coming to every modern platform, that being PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

Question: What is While The Iron’s Hot?

Answer: While The Iron’s Hot is a game consisting primarily of minigames and doing quests for a bunch of NPCs as the town blacksmith, rebuilding things with a vibe similar to Animal Crossing.

Question: How much is While The Iron’s Hot?

Answer: The game will run you $20 on all platforms, which is pretty worth it, given the hefty content.

Play Log

I played While the Iron’s Hot for 10 hours, with most of that being on my Steam Deck this time; it works fine on my PC, but the handheld gave it a great vibe where I felt like playing for hours; plus it worked great there.

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