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Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Mid-Week Update because Joe hasn't had a solid Internet connection all week: 7/10/14

Well hey, it's July already, happy independence day and all that, get ready for Christmas, understand how hot it can truly get under the burning sun, and Share a Coke with Monique.

NBA 2K14 (X360): Eleventh Appearance, Last Appearance 6/9/14

Another World: 20th Anniversary Edition (VITA): First Appearance
When I started doing these updates at the beginning of the year (back when they were on Sunday and not whenever the hell they wanted to be), I played a little game called Heart of Darkness. If you've stuck with me since then, you'll know that I enjoyed almost all of Heart of Darkness aside from the final level and the main character.

I never talked about it back then because the Sunday Update consisted of only about 3 sentences per game back in February, but I figured out what I liked about Heart of Darkness the most: Your character never really feels like they're ever that much stronger than the enemy. You have a weapon, sure, but most of the time it's unwieldy and unreliable.

Everything is trying to kill you, rather than in contemporaries like Doom, Duke Nukem, or even Super Mario 64, where often times the one making the first strike is the player. As Mario, there are many times when you feel like you're significantly stronger than your enemy, be it a Goomba or Bob-Omb or some low-level enemy of the sort. Along with that, in every game mentioned, it takes more than a couple of hits to kill you. I don't know that one single Goomba has ever killed me by itself in Super Mario 64. It may get two hits in at the most, but the player can punch the Goomba right in its fuckin face and then go get more coins if that's the case.

In Heart of Darkness, you die in one hit. You die instantly, and there's no recovery. On top of that, every enemy can kill you in one hit, and most enemies take more than one to kill. With those facts in place, you don't ever feel like your character is necessarily stronger than anything. Sure, you figure out how certain enemies work and how to defeat them easily, but even with that knowledge there's still no certainty in anything. Low level enemies will still overpower you even in later levels if you aren't putting enough effort in. That feeling is pervasive throughout the entire game: You're in over your head.

One-hit deaths aren't unheard of in games, in fact, many early games had your character perish with one hit, from the fairly innocuous Gumshoe on the NES to the infamous Transformers on the Famicom. What set Heart of Darkness apart from those was an incredibly simple tactic that I can't believe I haven't seen more: Checkpoints. Not even checkpoints that you can necessarily see, but just checkpoints where you can start getting through the next bit of the game without having to go back and replay the past 3 minutes. It works so simply, and keeps the player from wanting to quit playing. After a bit, at least for myself, running through the same 2 minute stretch to try one tricky section again is a waste of time.

Anyway, Heart of Darkness did both of those things perfectly. Another World (you'll notice I've gone through 5 paragraphs before bringing up the name of the game at hand, a new record) was created a few years before Heart of Darkness by the same man, √Čric Chahi, a Frenchman. It does all of those things I talked about just as well, and features fully polygonal graphics which lend a certain style to the game that I've never seen anywhere else. It's clich√© to say it, but that art style is linked with Another World and nothing else.

The remake is available for just about all major consoles, and I'd say it's a pretty solid remake. You have updated graphics and sounds, but you aren't forced to use them if you don't want, the controls are simple for modern consoles, and you can earn Trophies or Achievements if you'd like. I'm looking forward to finishing it, hopefully it doesn't disappoint like HoD did.

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