A playthrough of Interplay's 1998 platformer for the Sony PlayStation, Heart of Darkness.
Played through on the default difficulty level.
Heart of Darkness is a game very much in line with Out of this World (Another World), most likely owing to Eric Chahi's involvement with both. It's a "cinematic platformer", as was Out of this World and Flashback, but instead of relying on a game-engine to render the sights and sounds, the backgrounds are FMV clips streamed from the CD, and the characters are all done traditionally with extremely fluid sprite animations.
Instead of a scientist, Heart of Darkness puts you in the shoes of Andy, a kid who goes to the park with his dog, Whiskey. Great name, btw! Long story short, some bad stuff goes down, Whiskey is dognapped, and Andy jumps in his homemade spaceship in hopes of saving the dog. He lands on the alien planet to fight (metaphorically, of course) his deepest-seated fears.
Andy is terrified of the dark (as his teacher so kindly demonstrates for us in the introductory exposition), and so those fears end up becoming creatures made of shadow. Light destroys darkness, and this is the crux of the gameplay, as well as whatever literary aspirations the game's writers had. It wasn't by sheer coincidence that it ended up being named after Joseph Conrad's treatise on the natural state of the human condition. The parallels are beyond obvious - man faces a place that on the surface is the absolute antithesis of everything he knows and understands, yet underneath everything sits far more familiarly than is comfortable. Class, race, values, the interiority of the self and how it is both a mirror for and a reflection of external forces, yada yada yada. So yeah, anyone that has read (and understood) Heart of Darkness will likely start connecting the dots before the intro has ended, and probably will continue to do so until the finale. If you tend to think of things this way, you'll love how the game tingles your literary sense, sending you (by reflex) into the video game equivalent of rhetorical and symbolism analysis. If that were the only high point, I'd still love that this game tries to scratch my nerdy English studies' itch, but that's really just the beginning of it all. You can quite easily appreciate the game for what it does without all of the high-minded mumbo jumbo.
The presentation is really what steals the show here. The game is beautiful, no doubt, and in an odd role-reversal, this is one of the few games that come across MUCH better on the PlayStation than on the PC. Both versions run at the same low-resolution (320x240 with letterboxing), but the PS1 version runs at the system's 24-bit color depth (millions of colors), while the PC version is limited to an extremely low 8-bit (256 colors) depth. The difference isn't too dramatic, but it is extremely odd considering how much more powerful the required PC hardware was compared to the guts of a PlayStation. A lot of PC gamers were not pleased, and understandably so. But oh well. Unless you are playing them side-by-side, you probably won't notice (or care).
Either way, the game is gorgeous. The FMV backgrounds are brimming with life and color, and the amount of care put into the details is immediately obvious. The same can be said for the character sprites - even at such a low resolution, the animation for every movement of both Andy and his enemies is strikingly smooth. It's obvious that there are a TON of frames of animation here. It introduces a lot more nuance into the control of the action, making it feel much like Out of this World, Flashback, or Blackthorne.
(Can I throw in how the graphics mirror the function performed by language in the novella? In other words *hah* language, a tool for communication, is generally insufficient and stumbles in conveying truth...)
Still, even with excellent controls, you will die. A lot. Each death only sends you back a couple screens at most (and often, you'll just restart at the same screen), but some of these puzzles can be tricky, and most of the deaths are insanely gruesome and dark, especially given that our avatar for this scenic trip is a (appx?) 10-year-old boy. There's a lot of blood and severed limbs, for sure.
Anyways, I love this game. It oozes high production values (as it should, it began development in 1992!) and its design, though old-fashioned, more that does its job at supporting what it was that the game aimed to do. If you want lots of 90s eye-candy, or you want to think, or you just want a super-violent platformer that maims a child regularly, grab a copy of Heart of Darkness.
No cheats were used during the recording of this video.
NintendoComplete (http://www.nintendocomplete.com/) punches you in the face with in-depth reviews, screenshot archives, and music from classic 8-bit NES games!
Visit for the latest updates!