In the end, imagination is what counts. Heartland is, in a certain way, a simple game - yet it's also highly original.
Trying to compile a list of hints and tips for it proved rather difficult because there isn't much to say! Sometimes that would be a compliment but Heartland is so beautifully designed, so pleasingly arranged and so imaginative that it is only when you stop to reflect upon it that you realise there is very little to the plot.
The Heartland scenario is pitched somewhere between The Neverending Story and Peter Pan but imagination lifts it well above the average pixie pot-boiler. The key to the game is a book, a book from another world in which is told the story of Heartland, an unfinished tale of a battle between good and evil as represented by a demon called Midas. The book has arrived into our world, the world of real people who live in places like Dagenham and Milton Keynes, and you find it in your attic. Having got tired of the Neverending Story you start to read the book and, becoming sleepy start to dream of strange people and places (nobody said that magical books are necessarily an enthralling read). Anyway to cut a longish mythological fable short, you get nominated to collect the last pages of the book, in which the fate of Heartland is revealed.
This involves collecting missing pages. But beware, only keep the light pages because the dark pages are evil, probably difficult to read, and say that Heartland lost the war.
There are half a dozen different levels to this game, each with its own style of background graphics. On each, somewhere, a page of the book is lurking, finding it is the goal and staying alive whilst looking for it the crux of the problem.
You're an odd sort of character, a sort of mini-magician with enormous top hat and somewhat less than totally macho walk - Rambo you ain't. Baddies include (on the first level) creeping punk magicians and, worst of all, groups of roving social workers who can only be temporarily destroyed (OK, I know they probably aren't really roving social workers, but they have loose shirts, a misshapen slouch, jazz beatnik type beards, side burns and look like they are wearing cut off denims of some sort - what else was I to think?) Avoid them anyway.
You arrive on each new level complete with four-poster bed. Finding the missing page requires you to search around the strange world you discover. On the first level it's all faintly surreal: elegant potted palms placed neatly on marble pillars and strange statues. A curious backdrop to fire-spitting (literally) magicians and social workers. Your energy is gradually depleted by each social worker you bump into and each spit that hits home. The current state of your energy is represented by a growing face, that of magus himself, which forms in the top of the screen. As you lose energy you can replenish it by catching bubbles that float through the air occasionally.
Of course, you're not defenceless. You may be able to grab one of the weapons that sometimes spin through the air: a top hat needs to be spun successfully three times at a baddie to destroy him temporarily. Swords and fireballs work in the same way except that they require only two hits and one hit each.
The tricky thing, as far as playing, is that your current weapon is automatically replaced by the next one you bump into - even if it is of lower power. So you have to be pretty careful about what you touch.
When, on each level, you arrive at the right location for the page the book, an icon at the top of the screen flashes. Now simply wait for it to flutter down from the top of the screen.
Even when you've got the page the hardest bit is yet to come. How do you find your way back to the bed, near the start, in order to be transported to the next level? A map of some kind is indicated, I fear.
Joysticks: Kempston, Interface 2
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
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