Heart of Darkness is an action-adventure platformer developed by Amazing Studio and released in 1998 for PlayStation and Windows-compatible PCs. The game depicts a precocious young boy named Andy who sets off on a fantastic quest to rescue his kidnapped dog Whisky from the shadowy forces of evil.
Heart of Darkness was designed by noted French developer Eric Chahi. Similar to Chahi’s previous title Out of This World, the gameplay consists exclusively of 2D flip screen platforming with puzzle-solving elements. Heart of Darkness was also one of the first games to feature a fully orchestrated musical score.
The game is completely unrelated to the Joseph Conrad novel of the same name.
Andy is a young boy with a knack for inventing gadgets and a wild imagination. He is often at odds with his schoolteacher, a domineering old man who punishes Andy for sleeping in class by attempting to lock him inside a cupboard while also teasing Andy about his fear of the dark. Fortunately Andy is saved by the ringing school bell and makes a hasty escape from the classroom, with his teacher furiously shouting that tomorrow’s test will cover the solar eclipse scheduled to occur that same afternoon.
Andy’s faithful dog Whisky meets him at the school’s entrance, and the pair hitch a ride on a streetcar to watch the eclipse in a nearby park. As the moment of totality approaches, living shadows materialize and reach out towards the whimpering Whisky before snatching the dog away, leaving Andy and his favorite baseball cap behind.
Determined to rescue his canine companion, Andy runs home and clambers up to the treehouse in his backyard where he stores his inventions. He activates his custom-built computer and initiates the startup sequence for a single-seat spacecraft built from scrap parts. Andy also retrieves his homemade plasma cannon just before blasting off for parts unknown.
This is a 2D side scrolling platform game similar to the original Prince of Persia, Out of This World, and Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey. Andy can walk, jump, crawl, climb and swim. He can also use magic to grow trees and attack enemies. Later in the game he can use his plasma gun against shadow creatures. The player must solve puzzles which involve timing the character’s movement and using his various abilities to progress through the game. If Andy falls into a pit or is killed by the shadow creatures, the game is over.
Eric Chahi, the creator of the classic adventure game Out of This World was the creative force behind Heart of Darkness. The game had been in development at Amazing Studio for more than five years and suffered numerous delays before it was finally released in 1998. The development time was mostly spent in creating the game’s music and FMVs. Chahi himself would not return to active game development for nearly a decade following Heart of Darkness’ release.