Heart of Darkness

a game by Interplay Entertainment Corp.
Genre: Action
Platforms: PC, Playstation, PSX, GBA
Editor Rating: 7.8/10, based on 9 reviews, 10 reviews are shown
User Rating: 9.3/10 - 3 votes
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Veteran gamers may remember a title called Another World. At the time of its release it was considered to be pretty ground-breaking stuff, with atmospheric graphics, and gameplay that was deemed (by some) to be challenging. Whether you would agree depends on how much you enjoy being given about ten seconds to solve a puzzle and then dying if you fail to do so.

That was about eight years ago. Thankfully things have moved on and the games industry has since recognised that people do not enjoy being punished with death for failing to solve an obscure puzzle. Unfortunately, Amazing Studios seem to have been living in an underground bunker for the five years it took them to produce Heart Of Darkness, leading to a misunderstanding between them and the rest of the gaming community as to what constitutes entertaining gameplay. You may have guessed by now that Another World and Heart Of Darkness have a lot in common.

Do Or Die

The objective of the game is to guide Andy, the hero, through various levels filled with nasty monsters and fairly simple puzzles. Fair enough, you might think - after all, Abe's Oddysee was pretty good. However, it is no exaggeration to say that this is one of the most annoying games I have ever had the misfortune to play.

Make a note of the fact I use the word 'annoying' and not 'taxing'. This is not a difficult game to get through, although I doubt that any of you will complete much of it because you'll probably have thrown your gamepad at the screen after about an hour's play.

Gripping Stuff...

Picture the scene: Andy is surrounded by monsters. A lot of them. After much faffing about, ducking and diving and chucking fireballs around, Andy kills them all and moves on to the next screen... where he finds another huge group of monsters waiting for him.

Andy then goes through the same rubbish all over again, and eventually dispatches the second group of offending nasties and moves on to the next screen, where he finds he has to scale a wall. That is, a wall in the middle of another group of monsters.

While Andy's arsing about trying to find a grip in the wall, at the same time as chucking tilings at nasties, a big one-eyed blob appears. Unfortunately, the blob appears in the same piece of the wall Andy is occupying. Andy gets knocked off the wall, falls into a big group of monsters and promptly dies. Andy then comes back to life at the same point where the first group of monsters were, and discovers to his amazement that he has to go through every screen again, doing exactly the same things until he gets back to the scene where the offending blob first appeared. Andy turns his computer off and tells Heart Of Darkness it can go f**k itself.

Oh Dear

This chain of events is quite common in Heart Of Darkness. The puzzles are not particularly difficult and the monsters can be dispatched quite easily. But having to do everything again just because of some completely unannounced and unexpected event is laborious some of the time, and a complete pain in the arse the rest of it.

To make matters worse, the low-res graphics (320x200, anyone?) dictate that the game has to be played in a ridiculous letterbox - a complete giveaway that Heart Of Darkness should have arrived on the shelves about three years ago.

And it's a little difficult to imagine a PC gaming community brought up on a diet of first-person shooters and real-time strategy games warming to something that puts you in control of a little kid as he makes his way through a fairytale environment. Actually, Infogrames have an answer for that one: Heart Of Darkness is apparently aimed at a younger audience. Yeah, of course it is. Nothing's more likely to keep the little ones quiet than a stop-start platform game that kills them every five seconds. How silly of us.

It's actually quite a shame that Heart Of Darkness has turned out to be such a disappointment. Flashback was a very similar game and everyone - including myself - played it to death. Flashback, however, did not kill you every time you moved. Despite the negative tone of this review, there are probably people out there (those with masochistic tendencies spring to mind) who will get a kick out of this type of thing. In my opinion, such people deserve everything they get.

Download Heart of Darkness

PC Download

System requirements:

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

Playstation Download

System requirements:

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

PSX Download

System requirements:

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

GBA Download

System requirements:

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

Game Reviews

Developed by the folks that brought us Out of This World and Flashback, Heart of Darkness is an interactive graphic adventure that turns your worst nightmares and deep-seated fears into a game.

As Andy, you climb, twist, and shoot your way through seven levels of logic puzzles and plot discovery, trying to confront your childhood fears and find your lost dog. The game includes more than 1600 frames of animation, a fully orchestrated soundtrack by Bruce Broughton, and an array of awesome special effects.

The mists of vaporware weren't strong enough to hold Heart of Darkness, Virgin's secret weapon from the 1995 E3 show. After numerous delays and a total disappearance, the game surfaces again with Interplay's acquisition. Players control Andy, a young boy who must tackle ghouls, jungles, beasts, puzzles, and mazes through seven rendered worlds. Heart of Darkness was conceived before polygons ruled the Earth, so it remains to be seen if gamers will still be captivated with a beautifully animated 2D platform adventure.

Now here's a game with a history. Five years ago, when the creative minds behind the revolutionary classics Out of this World and Flashback began developing what they hoped would be a video game work-of-art, they originally intended it to be a PC title. Then Sega took a shine to it, and for the briefest of moments Heart of Darkness seemed a Saturn sure thing. Now, in what is most hopefully the final chapter of the game's marathon development cycle, Heart of Darkness is nearly ready to go gold for the PlayStation (as well as the PC).

So what's to expect from a game that's half a decade in the making? Well, it sure is pretty. Heart of Darkness is a 2D masterpiece, with 24-Bit color backgrounds, real-time shadows, thousands of frames of animation for each of the bitmap characters and 30 minutes of CG animation so spectacularly cinematic even Stevey Spielberg was reportedly impressed. Nearly every one of the game's more than 150 screens packs some sort of animated bit of scenery, such as leaves that blow in the foreground or waterfalls that dip in the distance.

And the game even sounds good, with an orchestral score composed by Bruce Broughton, who created the music for Miracle on 34th Street, Lost in Space and other flicks. Of course, such lavish details are probably to be expected, given the location and artistic tendencies of developer Amazing Studio. "They live in Paris," said Alan Pavlish, head of Tantrum, the game's publisher within Interplay. "They go to museums all the time. These guys aren't just game makers; they're artists."

OK, so it looks and sounds nice, but how's it play? Heart of Darkness certainly shows its Out of This World/Flashback roots. The game offers eight tevels of one-screen-at-a-time puzzles, much like Abe's Oddysee. And as in Abe, quick spurts of FMV will pop up now and then to seamlessly plop the game's protagonist--a kid named Andy who's on a quest for his kidnapped canine--into the next puzzling situation or further the game's story. Most puzzles require some manner of interaction with the environment (shimming up walls, swingin' from vines, ducking for cover in swamps, swimming past carnivorous aquatic plants). Andy will also run into an army of baddies in his trek through the Kingdom of Darkness, including shadowy ghouls, kid-eating lake monsters and the rest of the usual residents of every childhood nightmare.

A Fine Pedigree...

Years before Abe began his Oddysee, a french development house named Deiphine Software International blazed a trail for all such screen-by-screen puzzle games to follow (while, earlier still, Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia put the whole idea in motion). Old-school gamers no doubt remember Delphine's multiplatform Out of this World and, later, Flashback-both released in the early '90s. And if Heart of Darkness seems to share much in common with those games...well, it should. HoD Developer Amazing Studio was founded by Eric Chahi, who designed and programmed OotW, and Frederic Savoir, the Genesis programmer of Flashback. HoD is the duo's first game since forming Amazing Studio, and their effort is joined by several other artists and programmers who worked on the Deiphine classics, as well as the PlayStation game Fade to Black.

  • MANUFACTURER - Amazing Studio
  • THEME - Adventure
  • NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1

The guys at Interplay describe Heart of Darkness as an interactive animated film with a Toy Story-esque look and feel.

In this action-adventure game you play as Andy, a young boy with a vivid fear of the dark. The game tells the story of Andy's frightful descent into a dark and evil world where he must rescue his lost dog Whiskey. Players have nine levels of mazes, wild atmospheres and strange creatures to deal with on their way to conquering Andy's innermost fears in this animated wonder. Look for more on this game in the coming months.

Overview

Are you scared of the dark? Well, Andy sure is. There is nothing in the world that could get him to travel into the terrifying world of darkness. Actually, there is one thing. It turns out that the Master of Darkness has kidnapped Andy's dog, Whiskey, and he is forced to face his every fear in the Land of Darkness. Things may even turn out to be scarier than Andy could have ever imagined.

Heart of Darkness is a fairly original game that has you leading Andy through the World of Darkness, trying to rescue his dog Whiskey. You will run, jump, climb, swing and blast your way through eight different worlds. Solving puzzles and avoiding traps will also keep your brain working while the incredible graphics will keep your eyes satisfied. Throw in some of the most breathtaking music in any video game ever, and what you have is a game that will be fun for the whole family.

Gameplay

Heart of Darkness has been in the works for quite some time now. I remember hearing bits and pieces of information on this game as far as two years back. Sometimes long development times are a good thing, and other times they are not such a good thing. As soon as you pop in the CD and watch the intro, it will become abundantly clear why it took this game two years to make and two CDs to fit.

I normally don't give game intros much space unless they really grab my attention. Let's face it, most PSX intros are pretty awesome. It seemed like the different developers have a little contest going to see who can come up with the best looking intro, which makes the whole thing convoluted. I will usually watch the first part of the intro, and if it looks like the same old stuff I will skip past it. The first thing I noticed about the intro of this game was that it was almost like the beginning of a movie. The credits were coming up and the music was awesome. Then the intro actually started. Wow! This was one of the best intros I have ever watched. The best way I can describe it is to compare it to the movie Toy Story. If you have ever seen that movie, you will know what I am talking about. Just take my word for it; the intro is well worth watching.

The intro does a good job of setting up the scene and situation. I will not go through all of this, but I will pick up where you actually take control of the character. You play as a little boy named Andy. You crash-land your ship somewhere in the World of Darkness. You are armed with your ray gun and a desire to find your dog. You jump out of your crash-landed ship and venture out into a vast world of beasts and scary things.

The gameplay is best classified as a platform game, yet it is not really a platform game, due to the way the game screens are presented. Platform games usually scroll the screens in real time. This game uses a fixed screen and when you move to the next screen, it redraws the whole screen. The best comparison would be Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. Basically, what it amounts to is that you have some very lush and beautifully created backgrounds because they load all at once instead of streaming off the CD during the gameplay. This worked out pretty well, and the load time between screens was tolerable. There was a definite load time when you switched screens, but it was worth the wait thanks to the graphics.

The game does not keep score and you do not collect things throughout your adventure. You basically have one goal, rescuing your dog, and you don't have time for any of the other platform game-type crap to slow you down. You also have infinite lives, so you can die over and over again and not have to worry about running out of lives. This was good, because I did have a few problems with the overall fairness of this game (see paragraph near end addressing complaints).

One thing that is really different about this game is that you spend a majority of your time climbing up, down and across walls. Andy is quite proficient in climbing, and you will go through a few of the worlds that will have you doing practically nothing but climbing walls. I thought this was a great way to help distinguish Heart of Darkness from just another platform-type game and it really helped give the game a more 3D-type feel. You will also go through a world that has you swimming the majority of the time. You will have to maneuver around in the water, avoiding a ton of undersea monsters as well. I think that they did a great job of mixing things up and adding plenty of new and exciting environments for you to try and conquer.

This game is one of the best at using in-game FMV sequences as well. As you progress through the levels, you will hit certain ending points that will activate a 15-60 second FMV sequence. Some (most) games that use FMV in the past have not really done the best job in doing so. The FMV sequences in Heart of Darkness are so well-done and really add to the story, to the point that I actually looked forward to seeing the next one. They are all done in the same fashion as the intro, so that should give you a good idea of the quality of these sequences. The other thing about them is that they do not interrupt the gameplay at all. Usually FMV sequences are an annoyance that I skip as quickly as I can by pressing the buttons. There were times that I actually wished I could watch the sequences again.

I did have a few complaints with this game. Actually, my first complaint is not really a personal complaint, but I think that it may bother some people. The game is really short. Even though it spans two CDs, almost anyone will finish it in a weekend. I don't mind because I actually enjoy games that have an obtainable end. I mean, how many games have you played for weeks and finally just given up because either something new comes out or you just burn out on the game? I would have liked to see it go on a little further, but if you are one of those people who want to get months out of your gaming dollar, then you might be a little disappointed.

What I did have a complaint about was the controls. Like I mentioned above, you have unlimited lives. This is almost mandatory, due to the cheap deaths caused by the unresponsive controls. I can't count the number of times that I hit the jump button only to have little Andy hesitate before he would perform the move. This was really frustrating because I would have bad guys shooting at me up high and down low, so I would have to jump and them immediately duck or vice versa. With the lag time from when the jump button was pressed to when he actually jumped, it made this way more difficult than it should have been. Also, the game does not support analog control. Analog control is almost a given on any new game, and it was really missed in this game. I really would have enjoyed the game more using the smooth and precise control of analog.

Graphics

If I told you that this looked more like a computer animated movie than a video game, would you believe me? Well, you should, because that sums it up. I already said how good the intro and the in-game videos looked, but I have not really mentioned the in-game graphics. They were actually quite good. Since the backgrounds were all individual screens, they definitely put in a lot of effort making these look beautiful. This game uses two CDs, and it has to be because of all of the amazing graphics work. This is the reason it took over two years to make this game.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for something a little different and you want a game that you should be able to finish, Heart of Darkness is a good choice. The graphics alone make this game worthy of purchase. The gameplay is fun but frustrating at times, due to the lag time in the controls and lack of analog support. Overall, this is a game that the whole family will enjoy and it is almost better to grab a bowl of popcorn, sit back and watch the show as someone plays the game.

Overview

In a world very close to our own lives Andy, a boy like any other. His dog Whiskey adores him, and they spend as much time together as they can. When Whiskey is stolen by the Forces of Darkness during an eclipse, Andy must face his darkest fears in a secret kingdom, a world of soul-hungry phantoms, nightmare demons, manic monsters and bizarre friends. With the help of his new-found friend Amigo, he must find his way to the Heart of Darkness and confront his fear of the dark to win freedom for himself and Whiskey.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Heart of Darkness combines beautiful cinematic scenes with platform-style sequences where you must run, jump, shoot, swim, and climb your way through eight different levels filled with mystical mazes, exotic landscapes and evil enemies to reach the Heart of Darkness and confront the power of the Master. The transitions between the cinematic story sequences and the gameplay are very smooth, giving you the feeling that you are playing your way through the story. I found this refreshing compared to many platform games, where the story is almost an afterthought.

The game is best played using a game pad -- I found it difficult to perform some of the more complex moves using the keyboard controls. Unlike the PlayStation version of the game, I found that the PC version was very responsive when using the game pad. As you move around the world, you not only have to dodge the various nasties, you have to solve lots of puzzles ranging from opening doors and lighting up dark areas to moving objects through complex mazes. Each level of the game has new challenges and requires new tactics to complete. The constantly changing gameplay keeps it from becoming boring.

A big plus is the way your lives and saving the game are handled. Your position is saved automatically after completing each puzzle area and you have an unlimited number of tries at each puzzle. I’ve always hated games where limited save points and lives in the game means you end up replaying through an area over and over, trying to get past one difficult puzzle or bad guy. Heart of Darkness even helps you get past the tough areas by providing hints after you are killed the same way a dozen or so times.

The one major complaint I have is that the game is too short. I was able to play all the way through in about 10 hours. I really wanted more game, and replaying areas I’d already beaten wasn’t as satisfying.

Graphics

The backgrounds for each level are fantastic. The detailed scenery is wonderfully drawn, and as Andy gets closer to the Heart of Darkness the creepiness of the environment increases. The cutscenes between each level blend seamlessly, weaving the storyline throughout the game. The only nitpick I had with the graphics is that the characters become somewhat pixelated during gameplay. The character animations are smooth and detailed and overall they look good, but in some cases they start getting too blocky and can be distracting.

Audio

The musical score in Heart of Darkness is beautiful. It’s a complete orchestral score performed by a full symphony, and it is perfect for the game. It ranges from light and airy tunes when Andy is playing with Whiskey or talking to Amigo to dark and haunting when he’s approaching the Master’s Keep. The sound effects are also done well. From the various footstep sounds as Andy walks on different terrains to his grunts and yells while fighting with the bad guys, the effects add nice detail touches to the game.

System Requirements

Windows 95, 486 DX2/66 or faster (Pentium 90 or faster recommended), 16 MB RAM, DirectX compatible sound and video cards, 4X CD-ROM drive

Parental Warning

At first glance, Heart of Darkness looks like a good game for kids, especially with its E (Everyone) rating. Although the game has no overt gore, there is quite a bit of violence that should make parents consider carefully before buying it for younger kids. Andy is at various times disemboweled, eaten by snakes and shadow-demons, and incinerated by fireballs -- the death animations can get a bit extreme for the squeamish or faint of heart.

Bottom Line

Heart of Darkness is a fun platform game that will give even seasoned gamers a challenge. The gorgeous graphics, fantastic musical score and rich storyline make this one a keeper in my book. I did find that the game was a little too short and left me wanting more, but overall I give it high marks.

Overview

Are you scared of the dark? Well, Andy sure is. There is nothing in the world that could get him to travel into the terrifying world of darkness. Actually, there is one thing. It turns out that the Master of Darkness has kidnapped Andy's dog, Whiskey, and he is forced to face his every fear in the Land of Darkness. Things may even turn out to be scarier than Andy could have ever imagined.

Heart of Darkness is a fairly original game that has you leading Andy through the World of Darkness, trying to rescue his dog Whiskey. You will run, jump, climb, swing and blast your way through eight different worlds. Solving puzzles and avoiding traps will also keep your brain working while the incredible graphics will keep your eyes satisfied. Throw in some of the most breathtaking music in any video game ever, and what you have is a game that will be fun for the whole family.

Gameplay

Heart of Darkness has been in the works for quite some time now. I remember hearing bits and pieces of information on this game as far as two years back. Sometimes long development times are a good thing, and other times they are not such a good thing. As soon as you pop in the CD and watch the intro, it will become abundantly clear why it took this game two years to make and two CDs to fit.

I normally don't give game intros much space unless they really grab my attention. Let's face it, most PSX intros are pretty awesome. It seemed like the different developers have a little contest going to see who can come up with the best looking intro, which makes the whole thing convoluted. I will usually watch the first part of the intro, and if it looks like the same old stuff I will skip past it. The first thing I noticed about the intro of this game was that it was almost like the beginning of a movie. The credits were coming up and the music was awesome. Then the intro actually started. Wow! This was one of the best intros I have ever watched. The best way I can describe it is to compare it to the movie Toy Story. If you have ever seen that movie, you will know what I am talking about. Just take my word for it; the intro is well worth watching.

The intro does a good job of setting up the scene and situation. I will not go through all of this, but I will pick up where you actually take control of the character. You play as a little boy named Andy. You crash-land your ship somewhere in the World of Darkness. You are armed with your ray gun and a desire to find your dog. You jump out of your crash-landed ship and venture out into a vast world of beasts and scary things.

The gameplay is best classified as a platform game, yet it is not really a platform game, due to the way the game screens are presented. Platform games usually scroll the screens in real time. This game uses a fixed screen and when you move to the next screen, it redraws the whole screen. The best comparison would be Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. Basically, what it amounts to is that you have some very lush and beautifully created backgrounds because they load all at once instead of streaming off the CD during the gameplay. This worked out pretty well, and the load time between screens was tolerable. There was a definite load time when you switched screens, but it was worth the wait thanks to the graphics.

The game does not keep score and you do not collect things throughout your adventure. You basically have one goal, rescuing your dog, and you don't have time for any of the other platform game-type crap to slow you down. You also have infinite lives, so you can die over and over again and not have to worry about running out of lives. This was good, because I did have a few problems with the overall fairness of this game (see paragraph near end addressing complaints).

One thing that is really different about this game is that you spend a majority of your time climbing up, down and across walls. Andy is quite proficient in climbing, and you will go through a few of the worlds that will have you doing practically nothing but climbing walls. I thought this was a great way to help distinguish Heart of Darkness from just another platform-type game and it really helped give the game a more 3D-type feel. You will also go through a world that has you swimming the majority of the time. You will have to maneuver around in the water, avoiding a ton of undersea monsters as well. I think that they did a great job of mixing things up and adding plenty of new and exciting environments for you to try and conquer.

This game is one of the best at using in-game FMV sequences as well. As you progress through the levels, you will hit certain ending points that will activate a 15-60 second FMV sequence. Some (most) games that use FMV in the past have not really done the best job in doing so. The FMV sequences in Heart of Darkness are so well-done and really add to the story, to the point that I actually looked forward to seeing the next one. They are all done in the same fashion as the intro, so that should give you a good idea of the quality of these sequences. The other thing about them is that they do not interrupt the gameplay at all. Usually FMV sequences are an annoyance that I skip as quickly as I can by pressing the buttons. There were times that I actually wished I could watch the sequences again.

I did have a few complaints with this game. Actually, my first complaint is not really a personal complaint, but I think that it may bother some people. The game is really short. Even though it spans two CDs, almost anyone will finish it in a weekend. I don't mind because I actually enjoy games that have an obtainable end. I mean, how many games have you played for weeks and finally just given up because either something new comes out or you just burn out on the game? I would have liked to see it go on a little further, but if you are one of those people who want to get months out of your gaming dollar, then you might be a little disappointed.

What I did have a complaint about was the controls. Like I mentioned above, you have unlimited lives. This is almost mandatory, due to the cheap deaths caused by the unresponsive controls. I can't count the number of times that I hit the jump button only to have little Andy hesitate before he would perform the move. This was really frustrating because I would have bad guys shooting at me up high and down low, so I would have to jump and them immediately duck or vice versa. With the lag time from when the jump button was pressed to when he actually jumped, it made this way more difficult than it should have been. Also, the game does not support analog control. Analog control is almost a given on any new game, and it was really missed in this game. I really would have enjoyed the game more using the smooth and precise control of analog.

Graphics

If I told you that this looked more like a computer animated movie than a video game, would you believe me? Well, you should, because that sums it up. I already said how good the intro and the in-game videos looked, but I have not really mentioned the in-game graphics. They were actually quite good. Since the backgrounds were all individual screens, they definitely put in a lot of efffort making these llook beautiful. This game uses two CDs, and it has to be because of aall of the amazing graphics work. This is the reason it took over two years to make this game.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for something a little different and you want a game that you should be able to finish, Heart of Darkness is a good choice. The graphics alone make this game worthy of purchase. The gameplay is fun but frustrating at times, due to the lag time in the controls and lack of analog support. Overall, this is a game that the whole family will enjoy and it is almost better to grab a bowl of popcorn, sit back and watch the show as someone plays the game.

People say:

8

If Heart of Darkness was about four levels longer and not quite as tedious in some areas, I would've given it a 9.5. Basically, I beat the game and felt unsatisfied. It didn't take me that long and I wanted more. This would normally be a good thing, except in this case there was no more to play. So what made the game tedious? Well, a couple of things. First, a few of the puzzles in the game were almost impossible. Sure, you get unlimited tries but it still gets tedious. I do like the quick hints you receive if you die enough times--that's a nice addition. A few times, I'd get past a tough puzzle and then something on the next screen would pop up and kill me. Then I'd have to do it all over again...that's a bit cheap. Second, the control was too loose at times, making double-jumping and aiming your shots really tough in some situations. Still, Heart of Darkness has incredible graphics and cinematics (especially the version of the ending that you can watch with 3D glasses), a beautiful soundtrack, rad enemies and an interesting story line. I can't say I'm all that big on the kid you play as though. He's a little too obnoxious for my liking. His screams and overacting didn't really affect my score though. Overall, rent HoD and you'll probably want to buy it--that is, if you don't beat the game during the rental period.

2

I don't understand why Shawn likes this. You can't possibly comprehend the degree to which I HATE this game. It may be beautiful but it was responsible for raising my blood pressure to levels beyond what can possibly be healthy. It's the cheapest, most infuriating game I've played in YEARS. It kills you with no warning whatsoever, yet fundamentally remains simple, linear and easy. Years in the making...72 words to destroy.

7

More a work of art than a game, HoD's backgrounds are amazingly detailed, with little animated bits everywhere. And the animation for the dorky main character--as well as for the huge variety of enemies--is astoundingly fluid. Ambient sounds (thunder, wind, gurgling lava, etc.) complete this immersive package. But you're gonna need patience to enjoy HOD. Be ready to die a lot, although you can still beat it in a weekend.

7

Heart of Darkness--much like Oddworld or Flashback--isn't really my kind of game. Strangely enough, I still enjoyed it. I'm not big on the corny kid you control, and the frustration that ensues in the difficult areas is really, well, frustrating. Nonetheless, the gameplay, cinematics, puzzles and cool enemies more than make up for these negatives. Heart of Darkness can be tedious at times, but hey, I like a good challenge!

Remember Out of This World? To the uninitiated, it was a cool puzzle/strat megy/action game with clever, intricately planned traps and perilous pitfalls. The game was much too short, however, and its graphics were blocky and almost painful by today's standards.

With Heart of Darkness, Amazing Studios is delivering a new, more whimsical game that is just as clever as Out of This World (which it also worked on, along with Flashback). You play as Andy, a young man who is beset by ills of all kinds, including a terrifying fear of the dark. His dog, Whisky, is mistakenly abducted by the Master of Darkness, so Andy sets out to retrieve him by stepping into the Dark World. As you side-scroll through six beautiful levels, you'll solve complex puzzles, think through complex traps, and blast dozens of aliens who get in your way.

Although the gameplay is brainy, HOD will appeal to just about everyone. There's enough action for serious gamers, enough humor for kids, and the right mix of puzzles and eye candy for casual gamers.

However, after five years in production and a three-year wait since we last reported on it (see "Short ProShots," July '95), Heart of Darkness suffers from longevity problems. Once you've played through the game, that's it-- there's no going back and finding hidden areas or playing for better scores. You play this one from start to finish, no stopping, and then you wait for the sequel--which hopefully won't take another five years to create.

ProTips:

  • Shadows are dangerous everywhere in this world. Shoot at the dinosaur skull to eliminate the shadow behind it.
  • After the last jump in the lava, cling to the wall. It's your only way out.
  • See that man-eating plant in the corner? You'll find lots like it throughout the level. Make sure that one of those green seedlings is floating around them when you jump: After the plants eat the seedling, you can safely move past.

Graphics

Spectacular backgrounds and lush 24-bit color in the surroundings make Heart of Darkness one of the best-looking games this year. Even the cinemas are top-notch, edging gracefully into and out of the action sequences.

Control

The only frustrating control problems are the tricky jumps and the tendency to skid into a new screen before you're able to prepare for the dangers therein (which happens a lot). Running, jumping, and shooting are all responsive single-button actions.

Sound

Every creepy noise, from slithering shadow-beasts to the slurping effect when the shadow-fish gobble you up, is re-created in eerie stereo sound. You'll find yourself tuned in to the audio clues throughout the game.

Fun Factor

Heart of Darkness is a great game that includes all the cool elements of the old SNES game Out of This World and all the gorgeous scenery of Flashback. But after you're done, you're done-there are no hidden rooms, secrets, or replayability in this game.