Heart of Darkness (1998)

A game created by Amazing Studios, and published by Interplay,
onto both the Playstation 1 and PC. Retro, I know. However, it was one of the
most difficult games to complete by any child; one of the games I remember from
my childhood was one of the few I couldn’t complete till I relived it 14 years
on. The game starts in a classroom with a boy named Andy asleep in class, who is
awakened by his teacher, who reprimands him and decidedly throws him in a
closet… (That would be illegal nowadays, that teacher would be sacked ha-ha
^.^) Andy then escapes and meets his dog called ‘Whiskey’(You can’t help but
think he will grow up to be an alcoholic) who then run to a park and eat a picnic.
Everything turns bad as a Lunar eclipse occurs randomly and Andy’s dog is
kidnapped by unknown beings. Andy overreacts and runs home, ignores his mothers
shout for his dinner and goes to some Tree house/Laboratory, gets in his flying
car (its 1998… :/), picks up a weapon and helmet and flies to what looks like the
Grand Canyon or Death Valley, crashes and then the game starts.

The graphics are in the context of its era, large sprites with
CGI pre-rendered cinematic during cut sequences of the game, mimicing the emulators
of today. However, it stood above the rest in my eyes in its difficulty, from
the very beginning the computer decides to throw everything it has at you,
without explaining what is dangerous and what is friendly. Well from the first
couple of scenes you realise everything wants to kill you, and it can in ways
that will irritate to the brink of insanity.

As a side scrolling game is has its trademark, enemies
can attack you from their screen but you can’t attack  them,
which comes at a delight when your hit from a firebolt from an enemy three
screens ago. However, the puzzles are semi-intellectual for a child’s game, not
giving you any hints until you’ve died 102,344 times, not on par with Portal
mind you, but difficult and bizarre, puzzles that relate to the storyline do
baffle but once you solve one, you will know for the next puzzles.

Well I recently decided to take this up a day ago, after taking a
lifetime to install it, choose the right compatibility settings so that it would
play on my PC and not warp on me. Took me and my housemates 6 hours to complete,
which in great scheme of gaming, is nothing, BUT, back in the day to the
untrained eye and to these modern puzzle games, this took weeks of dying,
retrying, restarting and controller throwing to complete. However, one term you
will say over and over again is ‘FOR F**K SAKE, I PRESSED DOUBLE JUMP!’, which
you will find delightful.

The difficulty does increase tenfold after the first area as your
best weapon is eaten by some massive lizard creature and the game becomes a race
against time to not get eaten by anything that has a shadow, whilst avoiding that
shadow because it also wants to eat you. You do eventually stumble across
another power/weapon in the game which helps in solving puzzles and removing
obstacles, which is helpful, and towards the end it gives you back your old weapon.
In addition, you gain a race of allies, whom look similar to flying
goblins, who smoke pot and have pictures of naked ladies (:S This game just
jumped up a couple of PEGI ratings.), you then team up against the big scary
‘Sauron’ looking character and to save your dog. Oh and enjoy the ending, not
saying anything…

To conclude this review I will give this game a 5/10, mainly
because of the difficulty and because of the genre of games it has joined. It’s
a game that deserves to be relived, it’s not like the new puzzle games that
take two attempts and the computer does it for you, you actually have to think.
The storyline lets it down; the main linear one is a standard hero versus army
led by an ultimate being that by chance has chosen to kill you (I never
understood why?), the storyline fillers are ridiculous but does add a small
hilarity factor. It does lose rating due to the lack of replay value, once
completed you will feel satisfied for another decade until you feel the need to
spring clean and stumble across it and decide the time is right to complete it
once again. However, it does have a difficulty changer, which I have not attempted to change yet worried about the consquences. Overall a ‘deffo’ for the retro gamer, for those who don’t like to delve into the past, it wont be your cup of tea.

Thanks for reading!

Dec

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