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Review by: Bob Mandel
Published: October 5, 1998
In today’s volatile computer gaming industry, it may often take a game a really long time to reach the software store shelves. In recent months I have witnessed numerous occasions when right at the time a game is ready to ship, the distributor has financial woes and either disintegrates or sells off the title or both. Often such a change leads to months or even years of delay as a new distributor is found and the game needs to be reshaped to suit its new masters.
Such is the history of Heart of Darkness, a game that took its name from the famous Joseph Conrad novel to which it bears little resemblance. First announced way back in 1992, in 1993 it began to take shape through the efforts of the French Amazing Studio, best know for the sleeper hit Out of This World. Originally destined for distribution through Virgin Interactive, in early 1997 the deal fell apart, and now it is finally being distributed by Interplay for both the PC and Playstation. I checked back to compare the game features and specifications from the planned Virgin release, and discovered with some surprise that it looks like nothing major has been changed, added, or enhanced since then. For most games, standing still for a couple of years would be the kiss of death in the rapidly changing gaming marketplace.
But Heart of Darkness is not like most games. Although at its core a platform game, it really aspires to be an interactive movie. While in the last couple of years we have witnessed some real classics in the side-scrolling platform genre, especially Monolith’s Claw, Epic MegaGame’s Jazz Jackrabbit 2, and GT Interactive’s Oddworld, none has as lofty hopes for its impact on the gaming consumer as does Heart of Darkness.
In the strictest technical sense, Heart of Darkness is not a side-scroller in the manner of most of these typical platform games. In side-scrollers, when you get toward the right or left of a play screen, the vista expands so that you can move further in the direction you are going. In Heart of Darkness, in contrast, when you get toward the edge of a screen a whole new screen appears. So the challenges you face are very much the “overcome-the-difficulty-immediately-facing-you” variety, allowing you to approach the game tactically one hurdle at a time.
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