Saturday, January 31, 2015

Next to play: Heart of Darkness

Game: Heart of Darkness
Release Date: 1998
Platform: Playstation

Conditions: Finish the game on a medium difficulty

What do I expect?
I already know what to expect since I played the game for some 40 minutes after I bought it. And even before that I knew I should expect gruesome death animations and high difficulty. What I didn't expect is to lose my gun (shown on the cover) after the opening 5 minutes of the game. I thought I was done for when my only weapon was eaten by a giant monster after barely surviving an attack by a mob of shadowy creatures. Fortunately there wasn't any combat after that point and I had to evade the enemies through platforming. What really puzzles me is decision by the developer to make the first 2 minutes of the game way more difficult than anything that comes after. I could  almost see angry kids throwing controllers in rage and never progressing beyond that point. The only logical explanation I can think of is they wanted to have a shooting section in the beginning to draw the players in. I don't think it worked out well but let's start from the beginning.

Heart of Darkness is a cinematic platformer by Amazing Studios, supervised by Éric Chahi who is known for Another World. And just like Another World, Heart of Darkness has exceptionally good character animations and beautiful backgrounds. The game has that Oddworld visual style that doesn't age and looks just as good today as it did when it came out. It also reminds me a lot of Mighty Max cartoon. The game doesn't just look cinematic, it also sounds like it. It features a score by film and television composer Bruce Broughton. I'm really looking forward to hearing more of his music in this game since he did the theme for the movie Homeward Bound, which was one of my favorite childhood themes and I still love it. The high difficulty is balanced by unlimited tries. Sometimes it's worth to die just to experience the crazy death animations and the game won't punish you for it. It will just set you a single screen behind. For some reason Heart of Darkness didn't get the greatest critical reception when it came out (it received fairly good scores around 70%) nor it was very successful commercially. Time to delve into this cult classic to find out why.

Game facts

  • The development began in 1992. The game was planned for PC, 3DO and later for Sega Saturn. It was finally released in 1998 but only for PC and Playstation
  • Final FMV sequence of the game was done in 3D and the game came with a pair of blue/red 3D glasses
  • PC version only supported 256 colour VGA graphics while Playstation had 16 million
  • Game Boy Advance port was announced 2001 but never came out
  • Over 30 minutes of FMVs
  • Main character has a dog named Whiskey
  • The game was rated E for everyone despite having gruesome death animations. Someone wasn't paying attention.

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