Blast from the Past: Heart of Darkness (PS1)
‘In a world just like our own lives Andy, a boy like any other. His teacher hates him. His dog adores him. The thing that really scares him is the dark.’ It is this very fear that Andy now has to face and overcome in order to save his best friend, his doggy pal, Whisky. Whisky has been snatched away by the forces of darkness and Andy has to venture forth into the dark kingdom, a world of soul-hungry phantoms, shadow demons, manic monsters and bizarre friends.
As Andy, you’ll find yourself climbing, swinging, twisting, swimming and shooting your way through a world filled with mystical mazes, exotic landscapes and evil enemies. Fight head-on through eight treacherous levels inhabited by The Shades and The Dark Souls. This is a land where your childhood nightmares become a reality.
The level designs in the game I felt was excellent. The game is experienced in a 2D platformer style with puzzles and obstacles around every corner. The back drops of each level are aesthetically pleasing to look at with each level bringing a different aspect to the game. The swamp, for instance, has you swinging from vines and using fireflies as a decoy to sneak past man-eating plants, whereas the magic lake has you swimming through a lake filled with traps laying in wait to take your life instantly upon making one mistake. Then there’s the rivers of fire, a monster-infested level with lava shooting up as high as the ceiling in some areas. Some of my favourite levels in particular were the Magic Lake, Space Island and Swamp Lands.
Forget zombie hordes. Right off the bat, Heart of Darkness has you dealing with hordes of shadow creatures. Although each one individually is fairly simple to dispatch I can assure you that you’ll still have a hard time in the beginning fighting them off without being killed a few times first. You’ll basically be shooting enemies either with your plasma gun that shoots out lightning or a special power bestowed upon you by a magical rock. Apart from the shadow creatures that you’ll have to face, you’ll encounter man-eating plants, giant killer worms, armoured fire-throwing sloths and shadow spiders. The older control mechanics felt a bit sticky at times, especially during combat which I found frustrating, but nothing a little change in my timing couldn’t fix.
One thing I absolutely love about the game is that it has over thirty minutes of cinematic footage, filling the game with a story to draw and hold players into the world of Heart of Darkness.
The game is stunning to look at. The puzzles challenging but not insanely difficult. Enemy encounters are usually horde encounters unfortunately, but I don’t think this game was designed with that as the pinnacle point. The only other downside is the length of the game. I completed the game in just under five hours, but to be fair Heart of Darkness is as linear as they come. There is no form of soundtrack, though I assume the developers did this in order to keep the player feeling as if there is no hope in this land of darkness by creating a sense of being forever alone. It is definitely a must play for all retro and adventure/action genre fans out there.