Akuji The Heartless

a game by Crystal Dynamics, Inc.
Genre: Action
Platform: Playstation
Editor Rating: 6.8/10, based on 6 reviews
User Rating: 8.0/10 - 1 vote
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Akuji the Heartless is a brutal action game that combines elements of classic platform adventures with the supernatural world of voodoo magic. You play as Akuji, a warrior condemned to hell on his wedding day by his evil brother because he couldn't stand the peaceful ways of life Akuji brought to their homeland. Now it's up to you to locate the spirits of your ancestors, escape from hell, save your bride, and once again bring peace to the world. Akuji features 14 levels of magic and mayhem, including over 30 enemies, bloody fights (Akuji attacks using retractable claws), and wicked spells. You can light enemies on fire, summon demons, and possess the body of an enemy in order to blow them into pieces. The enemy A.I. is even being tweaked to act naturally. For instance, if a character doesn't feel his territory is being threatened, he won't attack. Get too close or cause him to fear for his safety, however, and he'll bumrush your voodoo ass. If you like your action both dark and magical, Akuji the Heartless is definitely the game to watch for this fall.

Download Akuji The Heartless

Playstation

System requirements:

  • PC compatible
  • Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP

Game Reviews

While Akuji the Heartless, the new action/plat-form game from the makers of Gex, succeeds in many regards, it comes up way short in two crucial areas. The camera angle bites, and the platform side of the gameplay s just too generic.

Voodoo Magic

Infused with the imagery and culture of voodoo, this game puts you in the shoes of the wronged warrior Akuji, who's literally heartless because his evil brother ripped it from his chest on Akuji's wedding day and cursed his spirit to wander Hell. Uh, ouch. But our hero has a chance to return to his bride's side--if he collects the spirits of his ancestors and breaks free from the underworld.

The gameplay mixes traditional platform play with slice-n-dice action as Akuji wanders through the underworld, hacking up enemies with his giant claws, unleashing spells, and generally putting the smack on anyone in his path. But he also collects voodoo dolls and other tokens to earn extra lives, solves puzzles, and feces plenty of Mario-style platform hopping. It's that last part that gets pretty stale--the combat and puzzle-solving are definitely fun, but all the tiresome jumping between platforms gets really lame, really fast.

Missed Spell

The frustrating camera angle really aggravates the problem. Instead of tagging along behind Akuji, the camera stays put as you move, so you have to tap R2 to swing it around behind Akuji. The result's a confusing mishmash that often leaves you blind to a charging enemy or something equally crucial. There's nothing worse than a long series of jumps you could easily make if you could just see where you were going.

If you can deal with that, the other controls work great on both the directional pad and the analog joysticks. Akuji can jump, crawl, slash, cast spells, duck-n-roll, and much more. If you can see what you're doing, it all works smoothly and intuitively, except for the sluggish sniper mode, which is pretty ineffective in combat

Hell is.... Pretty?

With colorful lighting and detailed original terrain, this underworld's pretty beautiful. Akuji's great animations look sharp, too, as he scuttles across the floor in a crablike crawl or swings from netting overhead. Great sounds provide the perfect creepy atmosphere with spooky ambient noises and enemy howls that'll raise your hackles.

While Akuji delivers on style, it falls a little short on substance. If platformhopping's your lifeblood and the threat of a vexing camera doesn't dissuade you, Akujis voodoo magic will cast its spell on you. Otherwise, a weekend rental will do the trick.

ProTips:

  • Most enemies can be killed by mashing rapidly on the Attack button.
  • If a door switch is just out of reach, hold R2 to go into sniper mode, then hit the switch with a spell to open the door.
  • Don't spend forever trying to reach tantalizing goodies that seem just out of reach. The switch that gives you access to them inevitably lurks a room or two later on.
  • At the start of the Pluton level, jump atop the moving pillars to your right and left to score some hidden spells.
  • When you run across these box-like enemy generators, take them out to prevent more enemies from emerging.
  • This gap in Khalas looks impossible to cross, but if you use the mirrored wall on your right, you'll see the invisible platforms that you need to land on.

Akuji Heartless, is you're no doubt aware, is being developed by Crystal Dynamics--the very same chaps who brought us Gex in his varied guises. Gex=3D action game. Akuji=3D action game... Akuji=Gex with different graphics? Well, urn, no (thank God)--but it does use the same graphics engine.

Fortunately the team at Crystal has completely overhauled the engine from Gex: Enter the Gecko so much so that you'd be pretty hard-pushed to tell. It's not quite the complete hot-rod job that the forthcoming Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is, but it is noticeably improved. Akuji's levels are filled with atmospheric lighting, moody effects, dark and foreboding crevices, and spooky bits--certainly not the kind of ambience that damn wise-ass gecko ever managed to generate. Akuji's characters and environments are also far more solid-looking with some detailed textures creeping up throughout. Underneath it all, it's still a run-around, jum-on-things and (in this case) hack-them-into-tiny-little-pieces-before-stomping-on-them job, but it does have a style of its own.

What sets Akuji apart from the deluge of similarly styled games set to hit the shelves this November is the subject matter. Something that a lot of games due for release this winter will suffer from is simple overkill. There are so many character-based 3D games kicking around that it's reached the point where as soon as a game is released, it's forgotten about. To try to ensure that doesn't happen here. Crystal has eschewed the usual cute, fluffy bunny approach to 3D action titles and has gone for a somewhat more, shall we say, "aggressive" tone.

Take the story for example. Akuji is about to get married to a girl from another tribe--their union will ensure a lasting peace in the land of Mamora. For an unexplained reason, Akuji's brother doesn't like the sound of this so he sets about killing everyone at the wedding in the messiest way possible (the intro shows the aftermath of the massacre with blood and goo everywhere) before ripping Akuji's heart out in a voodoo ceremony (the "heartless"--geddit?) Nasty huh? Akuji is then banished to hell--which looks uncannily like a 32 Bit 3D action game--where he must hook up with the souls of his ancestors, and I dunno, chug some beer with them or something. Oh no, he's got to use their power to break the barriers between hell and Mamora.

The gameplay itself is pretty much what you'd expect: 3D environments, big spooky monsters, power-ups, simple "puzzles" (pull this lever, hit that switch) and lots of voodoo-inspired violence and magic. It may not score many points for originality, but at least it carries it off with a certain amount of style.

People say:

7

You'd be forgiven for having the initial reaction of "ugh...it's just like Pitfall 3D," but despite the superficial similarities, once you've played Akuji for a while you'll realize that it's actually pretty enjoyable. Its Gex roots are perfectly visible for all to see. While the voodoo-inspired graphics are all very dark, moody and distinctive, the "feel" of the Gex engine shines in the way the camera system is employed. Run around and play the thing like a platform game until you can't see what's going on--and then tap the camera button to line things up behind the hero. Not perfect, but as good a method of handling it as we've seen elsewhere. As far as gameplay mechanics go, it's clear that Akuji has benefited by borrowing ideas from Banjo-Kazooie, Tomb Raider and even the upcoming Gex 3 game from Crystal. There's an elaborate system of collectables for you to chase around after, and amongst the zapping bad guys with different spells and hitting them with some nasty-looking knives, there are some nice moments. It's not going to win any awards for being overly complex or original...but the system of collecting souls to satisfy the bosses is effective, and the action stays pretty consistent throughout. It's not a particularly tough game-but the dark look and feel is a .welcome change of pace.

8

Out of all the PlayStation 3D action/adven-ture games I've come across in the past year or so, only a couple can compare with Akuji. This game simply feels good and is a hell of a lot of fun to play. It's a solid experience throughout and doesn't leave you scratching your head wondering why a particular game-play element wasn't tweaked or why there were so many cheap deaths in a certain area. I would buy this game for sure.

7

In a sea of mundane 3D action/adventure games, Akuji stands tall. It actually looks and feels like Pitfall 3D should have.The environments are not spectacular, but they look fairly nice (lots of good lighting). The levels are easy, but interesting enough to keep your attention. The emphasis is on finding items rather than killing multitudes of enemies. The camera is a bit tricky but can be adjusted easily. Overall, Akuji is a solid title.

6

Being in the shadow of Kain is tough, but Akuji manages to show some personality. The voice acting and overall story really save what would normally be a very generic adventure game. The graphics are good, but marred by a bad frame-rate and a camera that must constantly be wrangled into submission. I would've liked to see more transformations and voodoo-related powers other than projectiles. Good for beginners.

Akuji the Heartless, as you're no doubt aware, is being developed by Crystal Dynamics--the very same chaps who brought us Gex in his varied guises. Gex=3D action game, Akuji=3D action game... Akuji=Gex with different graphics? Well, urn, no (thank God)--but it does use the same graphics engine.

Fortunately the team at Crystal has completely overhauled the engine from Gex: Enter the Gecko so much so that you'd be pretty hard-pushed to tell. It's not quite the complete hot-rod job that the forthcoming Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is, but it is noticeably improved. Akuji's levels are filled with atmospheric lighting, moody effects, dark and foreboding crevices, and spooky bits--certainly not the kind of ambience that damn wise-ass gecko ever managed to generate. Akuji's characters and environments are also far more solid-looking with some detailed textures creeping up throughout. Underneath it all, it's still a run-around, jum-on-things and (in this case) hack-them-into-tiny-little-pieces-before-stomping-on-them job, but it does have a style of its own.

What sets Akuji apart from the deluge of similarly styled games set to hit the shelves this November is the subject matter. Something that a lot of games due for release this winter will suffer from is simple overkill. There are so many character-based 3D games kicking around that it's reached the point where as soon as a game is released, it's forgotten about. To try to ensure that doesn't happen here, Crystal has eschewed the usual cute, fluffy bunny approach to 3D action titles and has gone for a somewhat more, shall we say, "aggressive" tone.

Take the story for example. Akuji is about to get married to a girl from another tribe--their union will ensure a lasting peace in the land of Mamora. For an unexplained reason, Akuji's brother doesn't like the sound of this so he sets about killing everyone at the wedding in the messiest way possible (the intro shows the aftermath of the massacre with blood and goo everywhere) before ripping Akuji's heart out in a voodoo ceremony (the "heartless"--geddit?) Nasty huh? Akuji is then banished to hell--which looks uncannily like a 32-Bit 3D action game--where he must hook up with the souls of his ancestors, and I dunno, chug some beer with them or something. Oh no, he's got to use their power to break the barriers between hell and Mamora.

The gameplay itself is pretty much what you'd expect: 3D environments, big spooky monsters, power-ups, simple "puzzles" (pull this lever, hit that switch) and lots of voodoo-inspired violence and magic. It may not score many points for originality, but at least it carries it off with a certain amount of style.

It would seem that the "3D free-roaming action game" is the next genre of choice for the majority of developers. Still inspired by the success of Mario on the N64, the search for something of equal caliber continues on the PlayStation. After last year's slew of "almost, but not quite" titles, it would appear that we're finally going to see not only games with comparable technology, but also some interesting skews on actual game content.

Crystal Dynamics has a powerful game-creating tool in the shape of the engine used for Gex: Enter the Gecko, and throughout the course of 1998 and beyond we should see this (and further incarnations) put to effective use. The first off the blocks is this--a game that is a bold step away from the wise-cracking, movie-parodying antics previously favored. Fueled by voodoo imagery and dark, macabre violence, Akuji is a 3D action game where the emphasis is definitely on the nastier side of things.

Playing the role of Akuji, the story begins as you are murdered by your evil brother, a powerful voodoo priest, in order for him to steal away your bride. However, Akuji isn't just murdered--he has his heart ripped out (...the Heartless, get it?) and is then banished to hell. There--told you it was dark and nasty.

As you'd expect then, the majority of the game concerns Akuji's quest to avenge his death and escape from hell. To do this he has to 4 explore the 3D environs of hell and locate the spirits of his ancestors while he accumulates voodoo powers in order to escape and return to the material world.

The game employs the enhanced Gex graphics and gameplay engine extremely effectively-and while the gameplay mechanics are what you'd expect from a 3D action game (run, jump, shoot and lash out with nasty fist-mounted blades) the integration of realistic contextual Al where the bad guys seemingly "respond" to different things you do makes the whole environment more believable. Gone are the days where the bad guys just zero in on you regardless...here we encounter a more pensive and seemingly "intelligent" assailant. Having had the chance to play an early version, it was impressive to see creatures backing off and quite obviously being "aware" of the player's presence.

Add to all of this behavioral science some gorgeous lighting and polygonal morphing effects, and you have a PlayStation game that is most certainly a step up technologically from similar titles in the past.

  • MANUFACTURER - Crystal Dynamics
  • THEME - Action
  • NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1

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