First Impressions: Heart Of Darkness

September 28, 2009

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‘They don’t make them like they used to’ is a common enough adage. If you are the quick-to-anger type (like myself, I should add) you’ll be quite glad of that. After dying in the region of 30-40 times in my first half hour of play,  I can safely predict that Heart Of Darkness is likely to be the most testing game I’ve ever played.

The plot elements I’ve uncovered so far are rather far-fetched. The player controls a boy called Andy; a rascally little imp who escapes the classroom in the opening ‘cinematic’ (it’s incredible to see how far CG has come in 11 years) to lounge around on grassy hill with his favourite companion, his dog Whiskey. A solar eclipse occurs, and for some reason, sucks up the dog. Even more illogicly, the boy has somehow managed to craft a spaceship in his treehouse, and sets off into the sky in order to save his canine, but the crash lands into a twisted other world, with the primary objective of rescuing his dog from a  shadowy figure called the Master of Darkness. Oh, that old chestnut, right?

So, cue a tortuous platform-puzzler hybrid that sees you trynig to navigate the dangers of each screen, whether they take the form of shadowy, spider-like monsters or ginormous gelatinous lizards and more, in order to reach the next (harder) one. Think Flashback breeding with Samorost, yet a thousand times more sadistic. I’ve already died in a multitude of different ways, each one ‘rewarded’ with some really beautiful animation, and a cutscene depicting Andy falling to his death that I’m already painfully familiar with. As anathema to the multidinous ways of playing the current crop of the industry’s finest games, there is one way and one way only to tackle each screen – the challenge comes in how few deaths you endure in finding it. Requiring pin-point timing, some lateral thinking, and sheer bloody-mindedness, Heart Of Darkness is an old-fashioned challenge, but one that I’m looking forward to now that I’ve come to terms that I’ll be sending Andy to grisly deaths over and over and over again.

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