Monday, May 30, 2011

HEART OF DARKNESS



Heart of Darkness
Developer - Amazing Studio
Publisher - Interplay Entertainment
Release date - 31 July 1998

Heart of Darkness is a cinematic platform video game developed by Amazing Studio and published by Ocean Software in Europe and Interplay Entertainment in North America for the PlayStation and Microsoft Windows. A Game Boy Advance port was announced in 2001 but it was never released.

The game places players in the role of a child named Andy as he attempts to rescue his dog who has been kidnapped by shadow-like specters. The game has about half an hour of storytelling cinematic sequences, thousands of 2D animated frames, and uses pre-rendered background scenery. The game was supervised by game developer Éric Chahi, known for Another World, this time with a team of artists and developers. The game also features an original score by film and television composer Bruce Broughton.


Story

The game begins with the protagonist; a young boy known as Andy being abused by his teacher for sleeping in class where it is revealed that he has nyctophobia (fear of the dark). Being instructed that same day by his teacher to watch the solar eclipse, Andy takes his beloved dog Whisky to the park where dark forces steal Whisky away, prompting Andy to use his assortment of inventions and machines to get him back. Andy travels to another world called the Darkland in a homemade spaceship which promptly crashes and he has to face an assortment of obstacles to rescue Whisky and find his way home.

Throughout the game, Andy is tasked with fighting living shadow creatures and dark monsters while traversing several hostile alien environments such as a canyon, swamp, underwater cave, and lava river. He receives help in this quest from a peaceful alien race called Amigos whom he befriends, and from magic powers he obtains from a meteor referred to as the 'magic rock.' The main antagonist is an evil sorcerer known as the Master of Darkness who intended to capture Andy instead of his dog. Somewhat resembling Andy's teacher from the beginning of the game, the Master of Darkness has an interest in capturing Andy and sends his minions to pursue him. Another major antagonist is the Vicious Servant; a sniveling pink creature that serves the Master but is quick to betray him for personal benefit.


Gameplay

Heart of Darkness is a cinematic platformer in the vein of Eric Chahi's previous game Another World in which players control Andy, who faces various dangers in search of his dog, Whisky. Players progress through the game's linear storyline by navigating various environments and solving puzzles, all whilst attempting to keep Andy from being killed by evil shadows, hungry wildlife, and perilous obstacles. Along with basic movement, such as running, jumping, and climbing, certain sections of the game give Andy additional abilities. The plasma cannon allows Andy to shoot lightning at shadows in order to disintegrate them. The Special Powers, which can also be used offensively against enemies, can additionally be used to grow and destroy trees born from seeds. The player has unlimited tries, with Andy returning to the most recent checkpoint when he is killed.


Development

Heart of Darkness suffered a protracted development cycle marked by numerous delays and changes in platform. Development began in 1992, with the PC as the lead platform. The game was not publicly unveiled until the March 1995 European Computer Trade Show, at which time the developers said it was near completion. A version for the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer was announced, but the game spent so long in development that by the time it was finished, the 3DO (which was not even launched until a year after development on the game began) was no longer commercially viable. In 1996 Sega signed a deal for the console version to be a Sega Saturn exclusive, with the PC version to be held off until after the Saturn version was released. A release date of October 1996 was announced with the Saturn version, but due to long delays, the Saturn was also no longer a commercially viable platform by the time Heart of Darkness was finished.

The game's cutscenes were rendered using 3D Studio. According to Éric Chahi, the team did consider using Silicon Graphics workstations, but found that the improvement over 3D Studio was not enough to justify the expensiveness of the workstations or having to restart the work on the cutscenes. Chahi and Chris Delaporte created the game's textures themselves rather than using the 3D Studio texture library.

The game was released with a pair of red/blue 3D glasses, allowing players to watch a 3D FMV sequence at the end of the game. Despite the game featuring gruesome character deaths, the game received the lowest age ratings in its initial releases in North America and Europe, although some later editions received an increased rating.

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