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Atari Black Friday
Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (43085)
Written on  :  Mar 04, 2006
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars

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If at first you don't succeed: try, try again

The Good

Heart of Darkness is a platform game similar in style to Another World. Andy is a teenage who likes to study for someone else and gets in all kinds of trouble. One day while attending class, he gets in so much trouble for bringing his dog Whiskey to school, that he is doomed to spend time in the closet, which he somehow escapes. Later, both Andy and Whiskey study on a lush, green meadow when things start to happen: a) the moon covers the sun, b) Whiskey is taken away, and c) Andy gets transported to a strange dimension where every living creature is his enemy. As Andy, you must find your beloved dog and escape this dimension.

HOD is created by the same people who did AW. The same enemies that you face – shadows, flying beasts, and monsters – are similar to what gamers faced in AW. The controls are the same: jump, run, and shoot, and most enemies can use a secondary attack to take your out. The only difference here is that Andy can use his special attack to deal with the most difficult obstacles. Andy's special attack can also be used on enemies to knock them out in one shot. The only problem with this is that special attacks have to be recharged before they can be used, and that takes about five seconds, during which time you could be killed before you have the chance to use it on something. Andy can also somersault in the air and perform long jumps.

The game consists of eight short levels, and most of them take a bit of patience to get through. More often than not, you are more likely to get killed by an enemy or some object because you may either get your timing way out of line or do things that you are not supposed to. You have unlimited lives, meaning that you can try each scene again and again until you get it right. In each level, there are a series of restart points which can save you a lot of time if you do have trouble with such scenes. It is interesting to watch how you die. Most enemies gobble you up in some way or throw fireballs at you. The enemies have excellent AI. Once they see you and follow you, you can't retreat to the previous scene because they usually follow you off-screen.

Throughout HOD, there are a number of cut-scenes which made me think that I am actually watching a 3D children's movie. The graphics in the cut-scenes are right there with the movies, and the script is well thought-out, and it was exciting for me to know that at least one creature is Andy's friend, the Amigos that you meet in Level Two, and in almost every cut-scene, you can be sure that something always bad happens.

I was impressed with the metaphor that the game uses. When selecting the options, you are not treated with the usual boring choices, but with a first-person view of the gadgets in Andy's workshop. You cycle between options (New Game, Continue Game, Options, etc.) by using the left or right arrow keys, and except New Game, selecting one will cause a monitor to show something that is relevant to what you are doing. My personal favorite of these would be Options, where a clean, green GUI shows up on the monitor above the selection.

The environments in which you travel to are detailed than those from AW. You will try to fight off enemies as you travel though a canyon, swamp, jungle, caves, lava areas, and more. You can even swim underwater. The enemies are drawn nicely while looking nasty at the same time. There are puzzles in each of these environments. The puzzles range from growing a seed in the right place to take you up to a higher platform, to figuring out a way to get a certain object in the one place, which may be a difficult task.

The music is performed by the Sinfonia of London and conducted and composed by Bruce Broughton. Most of the music can be heard in the cut-scenes. I rarely noticed it while I was playing the game. The sounds coming from each enemy in the game is interesting to listen to, especially the shadows and the winged beasts. As long as there aren't any enemies in the scene you're in, you can hear the sounds of other creatures in the next scene, so you always know what to expect in that scene.

The Bad

The screen has a black border around it. Why this is the case, I don't know. Maybe the software that the game was programmed in didn't allow for full-screen graphics.

The game is a bit difficult, especially when you get to the last chapter of the game. You are faced with too many enemies at once while you have to repeatedly jump or duck just to avoid their attacks. It is so easy to mistime your jumps or perform the wrong action when you get into situations like these. In the last level, you have to press either [Alt] key twice to somersault, to avoid attacks, but sometimes the double key-press just did not register, and I had to suffer dealing with the same enemies that I just killed.

The Bottom Line

Heart of Darkness is a great platform game, similar to Another World, expect that you have more moves. The game consists of eight levels, which require a bit of timing and practice before you can complete its scenes. The moves you master will be put to the test in the final level as you battle with so many enemies at once. The music and sound effects are excellent, and the environments are beautiful. The cut-scenes within the game are what you expect from a children's movie.

If you are looking for a decent platform game, one that really bites, it's hard not to miss HOD. Before that, Another World was all the rage. If Delphine Software had made this game like they did to AW, and not just a few people from that company, then it would be totally different.

Atari Black Friday