Platform: DOS; Amiga; Macintosh
Review: Dynamix took everything great about Rise of the Dragon and nearly perfected it for their second adventure game. You play pilot Jake Masters (though Indiana Jones would fit as well) of a touring company in the Far East. The only blemish Mr. Masters has on his record is an acquiring debt with his creditor E.A. Lomax, a ruthless businessman out of New York and currently stationed in Honk Kong. Lomax gives Masters an ultimatum: save his daughter Kate who is in the hands of the Chinese in Chengdu and his debt will be cleared. Refuse Lomax’s offer, and well, let’s just say Masters can’t refuse the offer.
In Honk Kong, Masters finds Zhao Chi, a masterful ninja who offers to help Masters. Of course, Masters knows he needs no help, but lets him tag along anyway. Saving Kate in China is just the beginning of the adventure as you travel to several different cities, trying to get back to Paris where Mr. Lomax will be waiting for you.
Heart of China is a captivating game. Every character is fully developed, making the player feel for the heroes and hate the villains (and sometimes vice versa). Conversation is realistic. As in the game’s predecessor, what you say can come back to help or haunt you later. A romantic story develops with believable sexual tension and humour. The graphics are superb, and the sound is appropriate and lively most of the time.
Even the plot develops as the game progresses, which is a rare treat in the adventure genre. You can play all three main characters at various times, and discover plot branches that give you a completely alternate path to proceed through that part of the game. Along with three distinct endings based upon the relationships you develop (or destroy) throughout, the replay value is high.
My only major gripe about this game is the same one I had with Dynamix’s first offering. The arcade sequences simply do not fit. While the first one is marginally enjoyable, the second one (which literally ends the game) is a clunky mess that ruins the tempo of the ending. Blissfully, you are given an opportunity to skip them if you fail a certain number of times, but that’s certainly anticlimactic.
Despite the arcade debacle, Heart of China is easily one of my favorite games and is one that I have gone back to on more than one occasion. If you love Indiana Jones, then this game should be on your must-play list.
Contemporary Rating: Low. The arcade sequences along with some occasional confusion manipulating inventory items would likely irritate some.
Cruelty Rating: Nasty. There are a few times you can make the game unwinnable, sometimes obviously, sometimes not. However, the game never allows you to become walking dead for long, as it becomes obvious pretty quickly you’ve goofed. Regular saving should allow you to explore and enjoy various paths and dead ends without getting frustrated.