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-
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 buckle
It all starts when the ever-
Jake's our hero, a down-on-
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-
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-
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.