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Heart of Darkness
Score: 68%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Interplay
Developer: Amazing Studios
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer (2D)

Graphics & Sound:
The graphics for Heart of Darkness are not overly impressive, with the exception of the handling of the shadows. Of course, ďshadowsĒ are your enemies in this game, so an innocent looking shadow could be your impending death around the next corner. At certain times the main character, Andy, can be wandering about and his shadow will eerily grow and contort to catch you off guard. Itíll appear to be a huge shadow creature following you, but then... whew! You realize itís your own shadow.

This game comes from the same group that brought us Out of This World and it shows. If you enjoyed that game and its sequel, Fade to Black, Heart of Darkness may be for you. Itís a side-scroller with some variations. For example, you can climb certain walls and also push or blast with your gun to move items. But beware, this game is tough. There are certain moves that you HAVE to master if you want to progress. Thereís a point pretty early in the game where you must double jump over a group of shadow dogs or be continuously knocked off the cliff. This can get really frustrating.

A big problem I had with this game is that the graphics and storyline seemed to be targeted at a younger audience, but the game is ridiculously hard. Not only that, the game is rated for everyone. Yet I found some of the violence (although animated) to be disturbing. Of course, Andy is constantly getting killed. In one scene, the shadow creatures throw him to the ground and start tearing at his clothing and lifeless body. Another scene shows enemies yanking him inside of a small hole as you watch his legs flailing during the struggle, then hang lifelessly after he is killed. Oh, and then he gets dragged inside of the hole and presumable eaten. Now donít get me wrong, I like blood and guts as much as any gamer, but not in a game obviously aimed at kids. The violence is a little too realistic. Just to be fair, thereís a scene where a big plant sucks him in and spits out his tennis shoe. Thatís handling it in a cute and funny way. They should have stuck to that.

Iíve said it already, itís hard. Heart of Darkness is one of those games where you have to do a screen 20 times, then you finally pass a point and damn... you die and have to start over. There are some novel puzzles here, though. Ever had to lure fireflies to a different level to feed man-eating plants in order to pass through? How about grabbing a vine and finding out itís some freaky plant that you just killed by pulling him down. Thatís a nice touch. What you do in one screen affects what you will be doing in future areas. Of course, this also makes the puzzles harder.

Game Mechanics:
Itís a side-scroller where Andy progresses along in search of his kidnapped dog, Whiskey. To survive, he shoots and runs from shadow enemies. Not too far into the game, two huge shadow monsters steal your gun!!! Then you use a special ball of light as a weapon. (I have no idea how one obtains this magical ball of light, but itís there, so use it). There are puzzles along the way, but mostly killing shadows and running, climbing or swimming for your life. Of course, you can choose your difficulty level (pick Easy) and also view the FMVs youíve previously seen at any time by choosing View Cinematics in the Options screen. Heart of Darkness is also a multiplayer game. The Options menu is handled nicely. Youíre in Andyís clubhouse and you use his computer to choose your game, options, etc.

-Psibabe, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ashley Perkins

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