Excitement and adventure to take away

Heart of China logo Gamer Gold

DYNAMIX * £34.99 * 1 meg * Mouse * Out now

It's been a long time since my buck was swashed, I can tell you. Yes indeed, missus. In fact, I think it's safe to say that the last game that even made my swash feel remotely bucked up was Monkey Island. And that was ages and ages ago.
So as you can imagine, my swash and buckle were both feeling a little bit down in the dumps. I tried to cheer them up. Y'know, get them swashing and bucking again. I watched all the Indiana Jones films. I even watched loads of those stupid black-and-white cliff-hanger Republic serials, but to no avail. My swash was all bucked out and my buck was swash-less.

So it was a great boost to my ailing adrenalin glands to receive Heart of China. My swash and buckle perked right up. You see, Heart of China is set in the 1930s. And it's all about rescuing a damsel in distress from a ruthless warlord. And it's got ninjas. And tanks, planes and trains. And all the characters are digitised from real life actors.

And for once, it's a game that's as good as it sounds. Swashbuckling and buckleswashing all over the place, I promise you.
It all starts when the ever-lovely Nurse Kate Lomax is kidnapped while doing lots of great work for charidee, by fiendish and thoroughly boo-worthy warlord Li Deng. Kate's dad and allround beastly property baron, one Mr Eugene Adolphous Lomax III, gets a bit narked byt his and so decides to force "Lucky" Jake Masters to rescue her.

Jake's our hero, a down-on-his-luck fly boy, and he also owes Eugene loads of dosh. And just to make sure that Jake doesn't refuse this mission, Eugene blows up Jake's house boat. Fair Enough.

Thus, Jake finds himself scouring the streets and bars of Hong Kong for the last remaining ninja mister. Zhao Chi Only Chi can guide Jake to Li Deng's fortress, and besides, it's always handy to have a ninja close to hand in a scrap. And here we must jump into Jake's shoes and find the ninja, rescue the dame, kill the bad guys and survive till the end credits.

The action is controlled in true graphic adventure-style, by using the mouse pointer to explore your surroundings, and select various actions. And the interface used in Heart of China is excellent. Although at first glance it seems a bit daunting, and unfortunately the manual doesn't make it sound any easier, you soon get the hang of it.

The good thing about this all-new control system is that it allows you to check out each location just by moving the pointer over anything that looks interesting, and so you can immediately get an idea of what options are open to you. This is because as the pointer moves over something of note, the pointer changes to show you what you can do with it. So over a person it becomes a speech icon, over a door it becomes an exit sign and so on. It means that you'll never be sitting around wondering which things you can interact with and which are scenery. Which is rather nice isn't it?

And for all the complete thickies out there in Complete Thickieland the manual rather helpfully contains a step by step guide for the first few puzzles and tasks, including how to find Chi and convince him to join you.

This should help even the most clueless player get the hang of things and set off on their own, and of course, for the clever-dicks, you can just try it without any help. And you deserve everything you get. Smarty boots.

So, this Heart of China lark, what's it like, eh? Well, unless you're blind - in which case you'll probably have trouble reading this anyway - you'll already have noticed that there's a whopping Gamer Gold plastered somewhere around here. And that might give you a clue as to what I think of this game. I like it, in case you hadn't guessed.

The graphics are stunning. Lush, colourful backgrounds are populated with digitised actors, who have been retouched to they blend in with the backgrounds - even if Jake still bears an uncanny resemblance to Kurt Russell.

This inspired blending of real people and hi-res backgrounds gives the game a wonderfully rich feel, and adds no end to the all-important atmosphere.

TO add to the sheer glossiness of it all, a lot of the scenes are animated with people walking about and so on, which takes this from being your standard "clicking on a pretty picture" adventure to being an "interactive movie-type experience sort of thing". A big thumbs up for the way the game looks, then.

Sound-wise, you get plenty of oriental mood music, although sound effects are fairly thin on the ground. Ultimately, the music is just there to give your ears something to do, and it helps to cement the atmosphere already created by the graphics. And let's face it, if you did have loads of FX the game would probably just slow down to a crawl, and nobody wants that, now do we?

In the end though, it's the variety that keeps you glued. Even once you've rescued Kate, that's only part of the game. You'll have to go on to adventures in Istanbul, Katmandu and even on the Orient Express before your quest is completed.

At least if the manual's to be believed. Plus! There are arcade sequences including a tank simulation and a fist fight on top of a speeding train. Blimey. Thank God for the Save Game feature, eh?

Now put on your serious hats while we try and find something to moan about (Quick head scratching session). OK, the biggest grumble I can come up with is that the whole caboodle comes on a mammoth nine disks. Nine disks!

You can play it from floppy, but be prepared to swap until you're blue in the wrist. Hard drive installation is best as it speeds things right up, but then not everybody has a hard drive do they?

So, the price for such a huge game is that the box weighs a ton due to the piles of disks inside. And you'll probably spend more time swapping disks than playing the game if you aren't blessed with a hard drive.

All in all, Heart of China is one helluva game. It's big beyond the boundaries of conventional bigness and it looks and plays like a rather wonderful dream. A definite "must buy" for hard drive owners, and a worthwhile purchase for the more patient floppy drive users. Get out there and swash with your buckle until it drops off.

Heart of China logo

It's not just in Bond and Indiana Jones moviews where the guy always gets the girl. In Dynamix's latest release, you're given the chance to play hero and get a sweetheart as well. Can't be bad!

The first thought that comes to mind is the sheer weight of the whole package. In fact, ripping it open you'd expect to find a massive novel-style adventure manual inside that needs reading to get even the faintest idea of how to tackle your impending task. Surprisingly though, there's only a small manual and a travel guide (more about this later). Oh yes - and the game itself , the source of the weight: a massive nine disks! Definitely a game for those with two drives, preferably four (the maximum you can have), but ideally, of course, a fast hard drive with around 7-8Mb of space. This is a mega game!

A view to a kill
Heart Of China is an adventure game, but with a difference: It uses a game-playing method, like its predecessor Rise Of The Dragon, called the Dynamix Game Development System (DGDS to its chums). But what does this mean to a gaming rookie? The DGDS allows you to interact with the background and other players as you would in real life.

The way it works is amazing. An intelligent pointer changes its shape as you move it around the screen via the mouse (or a joystick and keyboard combination) into various shapes indicating what can be done at each point. Whether you can exit the scene from that point, or push something are all indicated, with a very intuitive feel to it.

It's so easy to use, yet powerful, allowing you to do just about anything a wannabe-hero would want to.

In the game, the view you take is in the first person, i.e. what you see is what you get, unlike The Secret Of Monkey Island where you take a second-person perspective view. You see the world around you from your eyes, and if you want to pick something up, that is what you do. You just point to the object with your mouse and drag it towards you (a little effigy on the screen).

Communicating with people is easy. Just click on who yo want to talk to, and you'll swiftly find yourself in deep conversation (assuming the other party wants to talk to you, that is). No typing is required at any stage because the whole adventure can be controlled entirely by the mouse. Die-hard adventure fans needn't worry that this means you have less control. On the contrary, the game feels as if you really are in the thick of the action, and quick reactions are needed - which are often impossible on your standard text adventure.

Jake 'Lucky' Masters is like any other movie hero. He's been forced into the task of rescuing the beautiful Katherine Lomax, due to circumstances out of his control. The man with the gun at this head is Kate's dad, Eugene Adolphous Lomax the Third, a man of great wealth and power. Why? Money> In most things Jake is lucky, but when it comes to finances, he doesn't live up to his name.

Lucky's an air pilot by profession. At the time of Kate's kidnapping by the goons hired by the powerful Li Deng, Lucky had been operating a shady tour scheme, flying tourists around China for a living. Not being a very profitable business, he took out loans from EA Lomax, to keep it running. Lucky's the kind of arrogant person who would keep an operation running even if it was costing him, just for the sheer fun of it - he loved flying.

The DGD System allows you to do just about anything a wanna-be hero would want to.

I have a cunning plan...
Being one of Lomax's biggest debtors, and perhaps the most suited person in Lomax's books for the job, Lucky is given the opportunity to clear his debts and perhaps even earn a bit of money and respect. How? By rescuing his daughter, Kate, from the clutches of Li Deng before he has his way with her.

Before you can set off on your way to Li Deng's fortress in Chengdu, you must enlist some help. This help comes (if you can persuade him) from Zhao Chi, the only ninja in China at the time, who also owes Lomax money. He is given the same opportunity of cancelling his debts by aiding Lucky with his task. Be warned though - Chi can take some persuading...
However, once by your side, this is where your globe-spanning epic journey begins. Don't forget to take with you your travel guide (the little pamphlet in the box) then you will not go far wrong, because it contains some facts that might even give you a few pointers on how to proceed. But do not rely on it 100 per cent...

Playing Jake Masters can be an amazingly funny experience. The things you do can lead in all different directions, because the game doesn't actually have any predetermined course that has to be taken. As you progress, choices have to be made that affect the rest of the game. One good point of the DGDS playing method is that the game actually tells you when you have taken a path in the game that could have been taken differently. This plot indicator doesn't actually tell you what you've done, or what could have been done, but just that you had the option of doing tasks differently. This is most clearly indicated by how you treat Kate once (if) you have managed to rescue her.

When you are dealing with anyone it has to be done carefully, because all the characters have a long memory. They do not easily forget if you've been frightfully dreadful to them in the past, but they can be most willing to return favours if they are treated well. They behave just as you would expect them to and have their own kind of human nature. Do you trust everyone or no-one? Self preservation is the key, and sometimes this can be hard.

Feeling lucky tonight?
Getting other people to do some of your dirty work for you is an essential part of the game, and everyone has a price, but money is not always payment enough. In this story, the hero doesn't necessarily get the girl. It all depends on how you deal with your leading lady as to whether or not there is going to be any romance in the air.

Lucky and Kate have a love-hate, cat-and-dog sort of relationship, and when you're up in the skies, flying to a new destination, you can check how well the two are getting on by activating the 'Romance-o-meter'. This shows you their inner thoughts about each other and spending on the score you can decide whether to let Jake try out a bit of seduction. Or instead you can break the age old 'hero-always-gets-the-girl' tradition and do your own thing, if you're that kind of guy. It's up to you; such is the beauty of this game - you can do what you want (any old time).

The control is refined in the sections of the game where you are actually speaking to others. Instead of choosing to say something, you can choose where the general flow of the conversation is going via a simple multiple choice selector containing a few different responses.

Again it doesn't matter which way you choose to go (except at certain places), because the game gels itself around the options you choose. Although it's probably best not to be too arrogant and generally go with the flow. You could of course be totally obnoxious or sycophantic, it's up to you. You could still finish, but you might have a little less money. The longer you take, the less of a reward you'll get, with money literally flying away at a rate of £20,000 a day!

It feels as if you really are in the thick of the action - quick reactions are needed

Every picture...
Heart of China is beautiful. The graphics are absolutely superb, they have a painterly quality about them, with a combination of touched-up digitised graphics and excellent hand-drawn backgrounds. From a distance they look amazing, and close-up there's plenty of detail that adds an outstanding, realistic feel to the whole game.

It's not all static graphics though, as one would expect from any ordinary adventure, no, there are proper animation sequences that are spread throughout the game. These take the form of excellent 'meanwhile' sequence that show you what else is happening around you, or as a direct result of some of your actions. There are even a couple of arcade sequences in the game, with selectable difficulty levels to add variety to the game. These can actually be skipped if they prove too hard to handle.

The sounds in the game are something to write home about, with an atmospheric soundtrack that fondles your ears and reflect the current mood of the game, and first-rate effects to match. So good in fact, you should hear them on a hi-fi in stereo for full benefit.

In fact everything about the game is so slick and lifelike, that you'll often find yourself writhing with laughter when you do something funny that turns out, quite candidly, how you expected it to, or disappointed when you know you've made an erroneous decision that doesn't work out the way that you had planned it. It's wise to save your game regularly. It needs at least 1Mb of memory, but for those with more memory, the game fully utilises the extra space by loading in better samples, and to speed up the game in general, keeps as much in memory as possible.

All good things must...
The adventure-without-typing format is becoming really popular with a whole load of recent releases (e.g. Cruise for a Corpse). Dynamix have produced an adventure that is a dream to play. The story blends together around your actions so well, you'd misled into believing that things were meant to happen the way you choose them to. There is not actually much to fault Heart Of China, it's a joy to play. There hasn't been a game to get you hooked like this for quite a while now.

The only niggle is length. The game is massive - on nine disks it would have to be! Looking in the manual and seeing a list of credits for all the characters in the game shows you just how big the game is, with you only ever seeing a percentage of them in any game.

The thing is that a lot of the data is taken up with all this, all the multiple scenarios and different routes that could be taken, which means that the game is not as long as perhaps it could have been. It's also a bit too easy to complete. This is mainly because of the intuitive way that the game works, with a lot of your options being dead logical and some puzzles turning out to be not very difficult to solve due to the nature of the control system.

All in all however, it's a thoroughly enjoyable romp around the world, from China to Paris never looking back. Satisfaction guaranteed. Oh and by the way, I did get the girl. (Say no more! - Ed).

Heart of China logo

An sich ist es ja schon fast ein Sonderangebot: Sage und schreibe neun Disketten bekommt man hier für einen knappen Hunni - und ein richtiges Spiel ist sogar auch noch drauf! Wen stört es da, daß bei unserem Testmuster die neunte Disk kaputt war?

Bei der Masse des Gebotenen sollte man auch wirklich nicht kleinlich sein, vor allem weil hier - ganz im Gegensatz zu vielen anderen "Multidisk-Games" - die Spielbarkeit auch für Nichtfestplattenbesitzer einigermaßen gewährleistet ist. Trotzdem verbessert eine HD-Installation die Handhabung natürlich schlagartig, fallen damit doch etliche Kunstpausen unter den Tisch. Andererseits haben Pessimisten ja schon behauptet, das chinesische Herzchen könnte gar nicht vom PC umgesetzt werden...

Alles Kokolores, selbst als plattenloser Amigianer wandert man nun ziemlich problemlos (mit Maus, Stick oder Keyboard) durchs Abenteuerland, was allerdings nicht zuletzt an den vergleichsweise geringen Handlungsmöglichkeiten liegt. Überhaupt ist das Spiel nicht nur leicht zu bedienen, sondern auch relativ leicht zu lösen - und das, obwohl man hier gleich in drei verschiedene Rollen schlüpfen kann bzw. muß: Da wäre einmal der eigentliche Held, seines Zeichens Pilot und Bobby-Detektiv.

Es wird von einem geheimnisvollen Freund begleitet, der aufgrund seiner speziellen (Ninja-) Fähigkeiten bei manchen Passagen das Kommando übernehmen muß. Fehlt noch die Person, die für das ganze Unternehmen letztlich verantwortlich ist - Kate, Krankenschwester Tochter eines amerikanischen Großindustriellen und last not least Entführungsopfer.

Drei Digi-Tage hat man insgesamt Zeit, um Gegenstände einzusammeln, mit unzähligen Leuten zu quatschen, per Flugzeug oder Orient-Express durch die Gegend zu reisen und einige simple Actionssequenzen (Boxen, Panzerfahren) zu bestehen. Dabei staunt man weniger über die etwas schwachbrüstige Komplexität, denn über die spielfilmartige Präsentation à la "Rise of the Dragon".

Einmal mehr hat Dynamix echte Schauspieler gefilmt und anschließend in die gezeichneten Hintergründe eingepaßt - der Effekt ist schon mehr als beeindruckend! Der 32 Farben-Modus des Amiga wird voll ausgenutzt, das Scrolling ist sanft und die Animationen vom edelsten. Damit das Spiel auch in der höchsten Animationsstufe einwandfrei läuft, benötigt man allerdings ein volles Megabyte Chip-RAM (wie es z.B. der neue A 500 Plus hat), aber auch mit einem stinknormalen 1 MB-Arbeitsspeicher sieht die Sache nicht viel schlechter aus.

Die stimmungsvolle und ständig wechselnde Begleitmusik ist so oder so hervorragend, wenn auch nicht ganz so gut wie bei 'Rise of the Dragon"...

Kurzum, Heart of China ist ein simpel zu bedienendes Einstieger-Adventure, das vor allem Orientfans ins Herz schließen werden. Oder anders: ein wunderschöner Kinofilm zum Mitmachen! Und Hand auf's China-Herz - welcher Film dauert schon ewig? (mm)

Heart of China logo

Let Sierra take you back to pre-WW2 China, a land of hired assassins, mysterious European exiles, and hot-headed young heroes like this 'Lucky' Jake Masters...

Ever wanted to play those new fangled CD-based adventure games? Well now you can, and without needing a CD drive or a single shiny disk either. Hey, wait there! I know you think I'm blabbering on incoherently, but give me a moment to explain. Imagine that if in place of photographed stills (as in CDTV games such as Psycho Killer - a really terrifying game, and no mistake), an adventure sort of thing were to use digitised graphics - with artwork for backdrops and real people in costume for the characters. It's a crazy idea, but one which just might work. And funnily enough, it just about has...

Sierra's latest first-person perspective graphic-adventure-novel, simulation-cinematic experience takes the game engine used in the earlier Rise Of The Dragon one step further.

Bolted onto this system is an adventure which recalls the wonderful days of Tales Of The Gold Monkey (an excellent-ish Indy-style TV series from the early eighties) and High Road To China (y'know, that daft Tom Selleck yarn) - weird when you consider that Rise Of The Dragon owed more than a little to Black Rain (another flick with a Chinese backdrop, this time moodily directed by Ridley Scott).

But anyway, back to the huge (i.e. hard drive very, very highly recommended) hulk of an adventure in hand. The plot (for plot is all important in these things) concerns 'Lucky' Jake Masters - an apple-pie eating, all-American xenophobic in the land of honour, humility and a thoroughly evil dictator.

This particularly unsavoury character has kidnapped Nurse Kate Lomax - a benevolent girl, whose mission in life is to help the Chinese peasants (and win a Nobel peace prize). The game commences at the dock, where you receive a directive from shady businessman Lomax (father of Nurse Kate, funnily enough) to check out a ninja guy by the name of Chi, before getting the hell out of town to rescue his daughter. Once the honourable Chi has been recruited, it's onto the airport, where Lucky's trusty plane awaits, ready to take the intrepid pair to the evil warlord's fortress, and deeper into action, adventure, and other dynamic words beginning with 'a'.

And so, in time honoured fashion, we come to the control system, Hearts Of China follows current trends by dispensing entirely with the laborious task of typing. Instead there are certain conversations where the player chooses one of selection of set answers, and others which flow without any input form the player.

Added to this is a pretty unobtrusive object manipulation system, allowing (say) a rope and grappling hook to be fastened together, clothes to be worn, guns to be held, etc, all using the mouse pointer. It's all remarkably user-friendly - there's nothing worse than a game engine which spoils the flow of play, and thankfully Hearts Of China doesn't suffer from this at all (which is more than can be said of the Sierra releases of a year or two ago). Although the linear nature of the game is often too evident, the feeling that you're actually taking aprt in a Boy's Own escapade is still pretty strong.

It feels like taking part in a Boy's Own escapade

Heart Of China not only uses all the established ideas of modern graphic adventures, but it even manages to build on them. Flipping control between the hot-headed Lucky and the calm and collected Chi is a cool idea, and it's not just a gimmick - many of the puzzles actually require the use of a particular character's abilities. The inclusion of action sequences, while not exactly original, seems to fit in better than usual too.

They feel like a natural progression for the game to take, rather than a tacky, crowd-pleasing add-on to the basic adventure structure. So what's wrong with it? Well, one thing I'm still not convinced about is Sierra's dedication to slider menus.

When the level of on-screen detail can be adjusted using one of these things I feel the degree of user-definability is getting just a little over-the-top. I can understand floppy drive users wanted less detail to speed things up a bit, but why the program can't program can't do this automatically, or simply have an on-off system. I don't know. It just smacks of an attempt to be flash.

Still, that aside, this is a very impressive game, I wasn't expecting to find a good yarn and solid playability behind the flash control system and digitized graphics, but life's full of nice surprises.

In my last review of a Sierra game (King's Quest V) I criticised the appalling plot, and suggested that if Sierra pulled their socks up in this area, their games would improve no end. With Hearts Of China they've made that turnaround, and we must applaud them for it.

As programmers get the hang of game systems, the emphasis is put right back on the story - Hearts Of China demonstrating it perfectly. For anyone with one meg and a hard drive this can be thoroughly recommended. If you don't relish the chance to play an arrogant bone-headed American egotist who gets all the best one liners you probably shouldn't be playing adventure games in the first place!

Heart of China logo

Jake Masters is one of those Americans who provide a strong case against tourism. Lud, self-confident to a ridiculous degree, and blessed with the silly nickname of 'Lucky', Jake's an adventurer, bankrupt importer, bankrupt importer, and self-appointed hero. Finding himself in Hong Kong in the 1930s with his Airborn Imports business deliberately destroyed by E.A. Lomax, a hardened rival, the former war ace decides to take up Lomax's 'offer' of a reward to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Kate.

Kate is a do-gooder nurse, snatched from the hospital where she was tending sick children - naturally - by the evil henchmen of Li Deng, the area's major crimelord.

Lucky's task revolves around freeing her from Deng's palace, but only recruiting the help of Zhao Chi, a local, Ninja. This is where Heart of China's major novely feature comes into operation: the player switches between Lucky and Chi (and Kate, once she's been rescued), because many of the situations within the game can only be solved by switching between the trio.

For instance, during a search for healing herbs, the shopkeeper, Madam Wu, is a xenophobe and refuses to sell them to Yankee Jake. However, by switching to Chi to make the initial contact any barriers will be broken and she'll talk to him. Oddly for a supposed hero, though, Jake takes a backseat to the actions of Chi and Kate later in the game.

The first stop is Li Deng's sinister Chengdu Fortress. This caomes as a slight disappointment as, after searching the building, with the exception of a few locations in the areas of Katmandu, Istanbul and the Orient Express, there's very little to see.

In addition, the lack of locations would be bearable if the puzzles offered any real challenge but, sadly, these are severally lacking, too. And this may leave some adventures feeling short-changed. To try to counter this, Dynamix have incorporated numerous ways of finishing the game, with a non-linear progression through it. Whenever the player makes a choice that takes him or her along an alternative path, a message pops up stating that you've decided to follow a particular plot branch.

In truth, there are very few chances to make 'alternative' decisions, but the idea is a nice one and will hopefully be exploited further in Dynamix's next release.

As with the company's previous foray with this system, Rise of the Dragon, HOC comes as a 1Mb-only game spanning an astounding nine disks. Unfortunately, single-drive users will find themselves swapping disks like there's no tomorrow and this interrupts the flow of the game enormously. Even with a hard drive, access time is far form quick, but is a vast improvement nonetheless.

Playing the game is simplicity itself, as the interface is a joy to use. All usable objects can be dragged around the screen, and icons at the bottom of the screen act as inventories. Clicking on Jake's portrait brings up either a quick inventory - which is used for manipulating objects - or the mains screen, which also includes a large shot of the character.

This allows you to wear items of clothing (important when infiltrating the palace) or activate weapons, and so on. This may limit the numbers of actions you can perform (even more so than Sierra's SCI interface) but, on the plus side, it makes playing the game considerably easier.

The period flavour of HOC is its strangest aspect, along with the Indiana Jones plot - although the pseudo-mystical and religious overtones are thankfully missing. Dialogue is a scream, and Lucky can't help winding up up people with his 'Oh, yeah?' attitude, while the usually silent Chi has a sardonic sense of humour.

If presentation is important to you, then this is the best adventure on the Amiga. The music, from dramatic scores to eastern tunes, sound superb when played through a stereo system, but my monitor fails to do it justice.

The graphical style works much better than in Rise of the Dragon, and from the intro sequence to the finale the game is a wonder to behold. The price for all this though - in money, access time and disk-swapping - is hard to justify in my opinion. Unless you're a total newcomer to the genre, I'd think long and hard before spending the money on Heart of China.


Heart of China's original incarnation on the PC featured the use of live actors for truly gasp-inducing graphic images. Over eighty actors were cast and decked out in period costumes, filmed in front of white backdrops. Their digitised images were then superimposed over painted scenery.

The shooting took well over a year, running simultaneously with the programmers' work of creating the actual game system. Despite the amazing success of the project, though, the filming wasn't without certain hitches: the actress playing Kate Lomax, Kimberly Greenwood, discovered she was pregnant a couple of months into shooting, and recasting and re-filming was deemed to expensive at that point. So tricks were used to hide her ever-apparent bump, to the extent of hiding it with cushions, retouching the images on computer, and so on.

Unfortunately, the Amiga palette doesn't run to these feats, so we're stuck with drawn representations of the actors!

Heart of China logo Zero Hero

Sierra/Dynamix/Amiga/£34.99/Out now

Old Chinese proverb say: "Man who left heart in San Francisco incorrect. Man come to China and leave not only heart, but kidneys, liver and nail clippings also." Spook.

Amiga reviewAmaya: When Dynamix's Heart Of China appeared on the PC last year, it was a magical mix of breathtakingly beautiful scenes packed with adventure, puzzle-solving, arcade action, a girl, a hero, a death-defying ninja and, not surprisingly, rather a lot of Chinese people.

The graphics were superb. Painstaking care had been taken to film real actors and their movements and digitize them into the game. Playing the game was akin to watching a film, except we were spared the likes of Jeff Bridges, Jane Seymour and David Yp (kindly slotting his part in between Brookside and a new series of The Chinese Detective). But I digress... because the burning question is: (no, no, not will there be a sequel to Jamaica Inn?) but is the Amiga version as rip-roaringly smart as the PC version? Well, I'm going to end this paragraph on a cliffhanger - i.e. you're going to have to read on to find out.

The place is Hong Kong, the year 1928. You start the game as Jake Masters, World War One flying ace and arrogant git. If anyone deserves a smack in the marth it's Jake and no mistake. He's also decided to throw caution to the wind and has taken to calling himself "Lucky". In addition old Chinese proverb say: "Never trust American with poncey haircut and furry jacket."

By a cruel twist of fate, Lucky has become a lackey (ho ho) to tycoon Eugene Lomax as Nurse Kate has been kidnapped by the tyrant Li Ding. He's offering a massive financial reward and Jake's massive er... debts make him the man for the job. However, old American proverb say: "Always get one of those cute, handy ninjas to do your dirty work."

So your task is to find a ninja so helpful he could rustle up a chop suey quicker than you can say Hong Kong Phooey. If you're as skill as I was, you'll find Zhao Chi no problem and convince him to ninja on down in hot pursuit of Nurse Kate. Getting him to set foot in "metal bird" (Mandarin for aeroplane) may prove more difficult.

Once achieved, the pair of you can then trek off to rescue Kate and the neat thing is you can swop between playing the loud-mouthed American or the astute Chinaman by simply clicking on the face icon at the bottom of the screen. Indeed you'll have to adopt this Psycho-like multi-personality if you're to have any chance of completing the game. And later on you'll even get to play Jane Seymour, er, I mean Nurse Kate.

The game has the possibility of several endings and a rather spooky signpost appears to warn you about a new plot branch. The control system is easy to master. Use your mouse to click on the response you want, click on the Lucky or Chi icon to call up their respective inventories or arm them and click around the screen to find useful objects or the exits.

My main reservation about this game is that it's not very difficult. Adroit adventurers may also find it lacking in the longevity stakes. However, it's a sheer joy to play if only to experience the cinematic graphics, atmospheric sound track, fab arcade actions sequences (which appear as a welcome surprise) and the imaginative touches like when Chi and a mate speak unintelligibly in Chinese.

I played this game from a hard disk but be warned, Heart Of China comes on nine disks so it's bound to be plagued by loading waits. Nevertheless, on the Amiga it's well worth its weight in yen. Ha soh. Stop