As the man said, if you want to get ahead, get a hat. And if you want to get someone else's head, get a hat like the one in Heartland. Remember how John Steed used to separate heads from bods with his steel-rimmed bowler? Our jaunty hero does a similar turn with his topper. Three hits with the hat and the enemy disintegrates into a pile of bones. Three hits mind you. That's why it's called a hat trick. Boom, boom!
If you feel a bit of a div doing someone a nasty with your hat, you can fortunately find other weapons on your travels. Swords and fireballs f'rinstance. And you only need two strikes with the sword and one with the fireball to reduce the opposition to a skeletal state.
But what, you cry, is the purpose of all this aggro? A book. A big book, mind, that tells the tale of Heartland and the struggle between good and evil (what a surprise) that took place there. Trouble is, the last six pages are missing - but you just try telling that to the lending library. Much easier to go off like a half-cock Hancock in search of the missing leaves. And as this is a tale of mystery and some imagination, there are two possible endings to the tome. The white pages you'll collect provide the Mills and Boon finale; the black ones must be wiped out with whatever Tippex substitute you happen to have on you.
Heartland has Odin written all over it - on the inlay card, on the cassette and, you guessed it, on the graphics and gameplay. Robin O 'Yesod characters get up to all sorts of Arc Of The Wood things. And the game will get you in the same way. It's really a very simple shoot 'em up in a very complex maze. As soon as you've mastered the trick of staying alive, start mapping. Of course, staying alive after you've lost your way on your newly drawn map is much more tricky - your time on each of the levels is limited and you have to make your way back to your bedmobile (I don't write 'em, just review 'em) to travel onto the next section.
Each of the levels has a different scenic theme but they all share the same cutesy graphics. From potted palms on the country estate, you'll move through post-modernist pipes and pulleys to Lilliput Lane country. It's all so twee it makes the Care Bears look like a bunch of grizzlies. The only redeeming feature is the way some of the wizards come at you with a rather delightful gobbing action. Splat. Someone's bound to tell me it's a mage's spell not his spittle but what the heck, we all need illusions.
When the nasties shuffle past you, your energy wanes and the face of the baddest hat of 'em all begins to appear at the top of the screen. As he starts to flash, you must be sharp and dash about like a solid Aero in search of bubbles. Fail and your shelf-life will be shortened to a matter of seconds. For those with a suicidal streak, you can also cop it by taking a pot shot at the book (not much point in racing round after the last six pages if you've just lost the first six hundred) or by falling down a hole - and there are more of those than in a packet of Polos. You float down to oblivion leaving only your topper on show.
Okay, I've got this far and I've resisted saying it but it's no good, I can't hold out much longer. I take my hat off to Heartland. Phew, that's better. And it's nearly true. It won't knock your sockets off but it's a fine game that lets you ease yourself into it until you're ready to take on the real challenge. Take it away Fred, I'm putting on my top hat....
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