Heart of China

Title           Heart of China
Game Type	Adventure
Players		1
Compatibility	KickStart 1.2+ (1 Mb)
HD Installable  Yes
Company		Dynamix/Sierra
Submission      Seppo Typpö (groucho@pp.inet.fi) Profiled Reviewer

There's a little adventurer living inside everyone of us. Who has not
dreamt about visiting exotic places, meeting exciting people and living on
the edge. Some of us are bold enough to make their dreams come true while
we others try to find some less dangerous way to briefly espace from
reality - enter computer adventure games.

Heart of China from Dynamix is the second adventure game from the company
which is probably better known for flight sims like A10 Tank Killer and
the infamous Red Baron. It puts the player into the boots of "Lucky" Jake
Masters, an all-American hero who gets a mission to save a  rich man's
kidnapped daughter from the hands of the local villain. It is a
point'n'click adventure game which merges a good story with beautiful
graphics and stunning music.

The package
The luxuriously designed package has room for nine disks, control
documentation, Amiga reference card and a travel guide which contains
additional information about the game characters and the places the player
visits during the game.

Heart of China (HoC) has the same control system Dynamix pioneered in Rise
of The Dragon (their first adventure game). It has some notable
differences when compared to control systems used by other adventure game
companies (like Dynamix's mother company Sierra). HoC can be played either
with mouse, keyboard or even with joystick. Only a few actions are
available (look, operate, move) but this is supported with some clever
inventory manipulation. For example, if you need to use the gun Jake has,
you must place it on Jake's hand while in inventory screen, after which
mouse (or joystick) can be used to aim and fire the gun in the main screen.

The control  system is  not all that makes HoC different from standard
graphic adventures. First of all, most of the scenes are viewed from a
first person perspective through your character's eyes. This means most of
the time that characters meet you during the game, they interact towards
the camera (and you) giving a more personal feel to the game than most of
the modern adventure games do.

The first person view means the locations and characters are usually
presented with static hand drawn pictures with odd animation sequence here
and there. The Amiga version has 32 colour graphics which, despite the low
number of colours, manage to look clear and beautiful.

Heart of China has some ingenious features later copied on other adventure
games. Interacting with non-player-characters is much more important than
in most adventure games. When talking to characters the game offers
different ways to approach them - A player can choose whether his
character is polite, annoying or downright rude - with different results
for each choice. Generally speaking it is not wise to irritate anyone in
this game - you'll never know if you might need their help later in the

The same approach goes for selecting a suitable character to do a job. HoC
offers three main characters each of which can be selected and played at
suitable moments. For example when talking with Chinese people it is
usually wise to play with a character who understands the language.
LucasArts offered similar feature in Maniac Mansion and later Zak
McKracken but it was not as involved as this. The main characters have
personalitites and also past history which sometimes dictates the way they
handle situations - all this must be taken into account when selecting
which one to play in each situation.

Then there are plot branches. The interactive storyline in Heart of China
is not linear - meaning there are several ways to solve problems and that
player actions affect the flow and the direction of the adventure. This
also means there are several entirely different endings. Playing the game
through with one ending does not mean you have seen everything the game
has to offer which motivates the player to try it again. This means Heart
of China has a higher replay value than most of the adventure games.

Finally there are couple of arcade sub games. One lets you drive a tank
while the other is a sort of beat'em up. To some players these games offer
a refreshing change from the normal adventuring while others may choose to
skip them all together.

Getting critical
There's very little to fault in this game. Some players might be put off
by the fact that unlike in LucasArts adventures, the main character can
die or the adventure can otherwise run into a dead end. Although the
characters do warn the player when they think some action is not wise it
is mostly up to the player to make the right decisions. Frequent saving of
the game (especially near the plot branches) save the player from lots of

The control system takes some learning (especially if the player is used
to standard the LucasArts-style user interface). Also the arcade parts
might annoy the adventure game purists.

The signs of a classic
Playing Heart of China is lot like playing an interactive comic book,
a feeling which is supported by the humorous yet intelligent plot and
sometimes funny characters. Like in old adventure movies the world is
pretty much black and white - the good guys are good, bad guys are very
bad and women are either saints or devils.

Luckily the game makers have not taken the subject too seriously - like in
the Indiana Jones movies, Heart of China mixes action, humour and even
romance into a perfect cocktail. This combined with puzzles that can be
usually solved with common sense instead of the "trial and error" method
raises this game to Quality Adventure Game status.

One of the strangest features in the game is a 'Romance Meter'. The
actions and choices the player makes also determines the relationship
between Jake and the girl he tries to rescue - so whether they get each
other at the end or not is really up to the player.

Without doubt one of the finest adventure games on the Amiga. Heart of
China combines quality graphics and sound with a funny and interesting
storyline. It contains unique features like plot branches, a totally
original control system and deep character interaction. Like "Lucky" Jake
Masters likes to think about himself, this one is an Ace.

Graphics :    Beautiful 32 colour hand drawn graphics
Sound    :    Nice atmospheric music coupled with suitable spot sfx
Gameplay :    Control system takes a bit time to learn, after that it is
              intuitive. Puzzles are logical

Tested on     A500 1 Mb RAM no hard disk
              A1200 BlizzardPPC (68040) with hard disk

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