Heart of China is already striking me as though it is a game that really, really wanted to do something amazing and unique, and probably found itself struggling a little with the effort of doing it 'all'. It's not that I'm not enjoying myself, but I've already found a few puzzles in the opening little area that have definitely made me shrug my head in spite of them being undeniably solvable. The game starts in Hong Kong, with Lucky Jake Masters (he insists that his name is simply Lucky, with several characters already having belittled him for that little idiosyncrasy in the little section I've played) having just freshly been told by Eugene Adolphus Lomax (E.A.) that he needs to go and rescue his daughter. Well, perhaps I come slightly ahead of myself here – the game actually starts with a little cinematic, and an incredibly long credits sequence over Lucky's flapping aviator's scarf blowing in the distance. The cinematic I feel is best summed up in a short GIF:
|I particularly like the evil man's 'glint'..|
This is definitely going to be a hard game to sum up without using huge amounts of animated imagery to take it in, but I'll try to go the opposite way to how Joe did in Willy Beamish – I know there were quite a few people who found that quite difficult to deal with. It's really important in the same sentence to say that this game is definitely one which has the feeling of 'motion'. It might not always have the best graphics to its little animations and the like – hell, a lot of it is already striking me as down-right silly – but the game definitely has a very 'movie-like' style. Indeed, the ability to use two different characters thus far gives a lot of internal narration already. I'm not too fond of the actual characters they're developing, but if they really were aiming to make an 'immersive cinematic experience where you are IN the world of Jake Masters' as the manual suggested it fell apart as soon as Jake gained the telepathic ability to tell the character yet not himself what the Chinese shopkeeper was thinking.. in Chinese, I think, but they at least translated that for us.
|I somehow don't believe that she really thought 'Fiddlesticks', though|
|I immediately equipped his gun. This has made no practical change |
to any character interactions, though – evidently, he's not that threatening
|Four awesome choices! You only die if you visit -two- of them too early..|
The game starts us out on the docks, where you can look at a whole bunch of nothing, admire the few bits of flotsam and jetsam that make up Lucky's former boat, and stare at a particularly rambunctious seagull. This seemed like a bad plan to me. My partner in real life has a bit of a phobia of birds, so I knew better than to let the sound of a seagull cawing and squarking to fill my lounge for too long. Instead, I decided to visit Lomax to see if he had any extra information for me. This worked wonderfully, as he first yelled at me to head out to Chengdu immediately – and then got Lucky this fantastic new gig 'somewhere in the South Pacific'..
|I know, right? What a great deal! Didn't even need to fire his gun!|
|The central district of Hong Kong! Pictured: a little something that might be important soon..|
|A nice little wink to Ilmari, and everyone else who ever played Rise of the Dragon|
Why am I talking about Ho, though? Clearly, the aim has to be to talk to Rose, who is sitting atop the bar. She is a lady of the night, and as such is sure to be able to find me a way to find a ninja! She offers me to spend the night with her, which I naturally took to be a euphemism for 'go and find the ninja'. Unfortunately, she is not Zhao Chi – she is just a girl in need of the ludicrous amount of money Lucky is carting around. An associate of hers knocks him out and leaves him to wake up in an alleyway without it.. several days later, meaning he's missed out on his chance to rescue Kate. Oops. Guess it turns out she didn't really make him 'lucky'. I found another way to get Lucky his dream ticket out to scrubbing decks in the South Pacific, though, so that's a bonus!
|'I am lucky!' 'Rose mean REAL lucky!'|
|Jake sure seems to have a lot of enemies. I kinda feel like they might be deserved, though..|
Foregoing the obvious temptation of performing some 'ninja research' with Rose, I instead speak with the barkeep, Ho. He has very little to offer, in truth – he insists that he's more than willing to help out Lucky, but as soon as Zhao Chi's name is mentioned he bottles up immediately. Pressing him enough leads to a 'goon' (they're fond of this word at Dynamix HQ) calling Lucky back out into the main room. They banter for a touch and finally, we're given some dialogue options that feel somewhat deserved as the 'goon' is very insistent that we not get to meet Zhao Chi at all, leading to a minor fight. I tried a few ways, and they all end up the same way – Lucky punches his lights out, gets ready for a bar room brawl and instead, a person pops out of nowhere to stop the fighting – turns out he's Zhao Chi, and doesn't want there to be any bloodshed on his account.
|A good example of the sort of 'sterling dialogue' Lucky has to offer|
|As I say, this game really does 'move' throughout,|
using these little cinematics really cleverly to do so
|The first time you can make Lucky talk like a normal person – I took it|
|Not quite the 'rock and roll' moment you sometimes come up with on |
a successful puzzle, though that is a pretty ridiculous 'concentration face'..
|But enough to teach Chi about the 'inverse cosine effect of air travel'|
|Herbal medicine, sounds great..|
|Yes.. really. Ugh. Just ugh.|
|Something more terrifying than just about anything else |
this game could throw at us – British immigration
|… Who aren't so willing to take a bribe, or a false passport|
|And the 'Leia being dressed up by the creepy foreigner' scene with Kate as Leia|
Session time: 1 hour
Playing time: 1 hour
Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!
A continuation of a riddle, if anyone cares – (it's not Guybrush Threepwood, Raoul Desenti or Sea of Thieves/Shipwreckers)
A tale set upon the High Seas
Of mostly lesser larcenies
His woman's aloof
His trial's by tooth
Of whom do I speak of, please?
A modern game, there is the key
Created by fellows from Germany
Of a man not obscene
For he is truly keen
To take out the evil Doctor...