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Video Game / Heart of Darkness

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Heart of Darkness is a Cinematic Platformer developed by Amazing Studio for the PC and PlayStation, that came out in 1998.

The game revolves around a boy named Andy with a fear of the dark, who during a solar eclipse gets his dog Whisky mysteriously kidnapped by a dark force. Determined to get his best friend back, he sets out in his spaceship to retrieve him from the alien Darklands to where he was taken.

The gameplay revolves mostly around puzzles, precision jumps, and predicting the environment. Often you'll have access to a weapon, but in some areas you'll be unarmed and have to resort to have to either avoiding your enemies or turning their Malevolent Architecture against them.

Although the game retains an E rating, the game contains a wide array of rather gruesome ways Andy can be killed; and as the infinite amount of lives presented to you suggest, you WILL get killed.

Not to be confused with the Joseph Conrad novella of the same name, or the Victoria II expansion pack.

Heart of Darkness provides examples of:

  • Adorable Evil Minions: The Shadow Spectres are just as dangerous as everything else, if a bit slower, but their cute babbling and sleek design makes them rather cute. In certain points of the game, they may even 'talk' to one another back and forth with squeaking giggles.
  • All Just a Dream: The beginning of the last cutscene suggests that the events of the game were all in Andy's imagination.
  • Amusing Alien: The Amigos are a whole race of these, who eventually help Andy to rescue his dog. They act just as goofy as they look, and even for late '90s CG they look particularly silly.
  • Asleep in Class: The very start of the game, Andy being woken up during a lecture by his Evil Teacher.
  • Asteroids Monster: The Armored Shadows/Double Spectres, a late-game type of Mook, will split into two fleshy blobs when killed. If both blobs aren't destroyed in time, they will both grow into a new Mook. This is a problem since destroying them requires you to use the Charged Blast, and you often fight them in groups.
  • Background Boss: The Master in the final chapter floats around tossing the occasional Fireball at you. You can't harm him, though, and once you beat the last of his shadowy spawn he politely exits the screen.
  • Bad Boss: As you can expect from the villain of this kind of story, the Master constantly abuses his servant, and outright kills his minions.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite the Family Unfriendly Deaths present in the game, which include Andy being eaten, incinerated, drowned, etc., there is almost no bloodshed in this game.
  • Body Horror: The Amigos cannot touch the ground in the Darklands around the Master of Darkness' lair. One of them gets too tired to fly, and the moment he lands he's turned into a Flying Shadow. If that wasn't enough, the other Amigos yell at Andy to get away, since it's too late to help that Amigo.
  • But You Were There, and You, and You: As well as the similarities the Master of Darkness has with Andy's teacher, the pink trunk-nosed servant can be likened to the pink elephant on Andy's pajamas in the ending cinematic, which also features a stuffed toy closely resembling Amigo shown next to Andy's other toys.
  • Child Prodigy: How many kids do you know who invented their own makeshift lightning gun and spaceship? (Well, besides Commander Keen...) Judging by the ending, all this stuff may or may not have just been in his imagination.
  • Conservation of Competence: The Master told his minions to kidnap Andy. The minions kidnapped Andy’s dog Whiskey instead.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: The lava being well animated doesn't mean it was taken into account how quickly standing too closely to it would cook a human. As Andy can climb above it and freely walk along floating rocks that form natural stepping stones across the molten rock.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: Like most cinematic platformers, Heart of Darkness is generally good at avoiding this series of tropes however it occasionally includes examples of Cutscene Power to the Max and Took a Shortcut.
  • Cutscene Power to the Max: Andy's powers and abilities are quite similar between cinematic and gameplay. The special powers work in the same way and the specters are as much of a threat. However, two specific instances can be noted: the fireballs thrown from the flying specters are shown to not kill the Amigos in the cinematics even though sustaining a direct hit from one in-game and Andy will leave only a shoe. Andy is also in danger of falling off the floating island in "Space Island" which counts as a death, but at the end of the level saves himself from falling off Space Island in a cinematic by growing a giant sunflower on the main surface of the planet and slowing his descent.
  • Dark Is Evil: Darkland, Dark kingdom, Master of Darkness, Heart of Darkness... yeah.... The whole darkness theme might be from Andy's fear of the dark.
  • Dead Hat Shot: While many of the deaths result in Andy being eaten, crushed, or incinerated into oblivion his clothes will sometimes manage to survive. The underwater suckers will spit out Andy's shirt, bandanna and shoes. Andy's single red hightop sneaker is often left behind both after being incinerated and being eaten. Seemingly unscathed. It's no match for lava, however.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Infinite lives, for a perfectly good reason.
  • Death World: Getting crushed by rocks, falling into lava, falling off cliffs, being crushed by giant fossils, the ground crumbling beneath your feet, being generally loathed by all its living inhabitants....
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: In the last part of the game, the Master blows the Magic Meteor into pieces, depriving Andy of its powers. With the help of the Master's cowardly sidekick, Andy must then find the fragments dispersed in the mine.
  • Eaten Alive: Andy is unavoidably eaten late in the game as he falls atop the head of Mefudoka... Who happened to be the same beast that ate Andy's lightning gun and equipment near the beginning. You can guess what happens.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: The plant life, the underwater creatures, the dark beings, the environment, shadows cast by the environment...
  • Evil Teacher: The Master looks a lot like Andy's mean teacher, and has a similar voice.
  • Excuse Plot: A largely unexplained one anyway (for example, why did the Evil Overlord want to kidnap Andy in the first place?); though the end suggests it was All Just a Dream.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: There's almost no blood. However, many of the deaths involve broken and dislocated bones with a properly Sickening "Crunch!" as a monster pulls them loose, or flesh getting torn off.
  • Fission Mailed: After losing the power granted by the meteor while deep inside the enemy caves, you have to get eaten by the Giant Mook in order to retrieve your plasma gun the monster had eaten earlier.
  • Floating Continent: There is what looks like an upside-down mountain floating above the world, where live the "Amigos". Weirdly, it has inverted gravity compared to the main land — if you fall from the mountain's edge, you go UP into the sky. If you reach the mountain's "top" (its bottom from a non-inverted viewpoint), then you're claimed back by the gravity of the earth and fall down.
  • Green Thumb: A beneficial side-effect Andy receives from touching an illuminated underwater rock. When he charges his powers, Andy can launch a large ball of energy that is able to make plants grow, even from seeds.
  • Ground Punch: The bigger Shadow Spectres can punch the ground hard enough to cause a tremor, making Andy fall from a ladder or dislodging stones below a ledge.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: The entire motive and driving force behind Andy's mission and his activities in the Darkland is to rescue his beloved dog Whisky.
  • Increasingly Lethal Enemy: The Armored Shadows, if not destroyed fast enough, will re-spawn endlessly and can swarm you if you're too slow at finishing them off.
  • Just Eat Him: Late in the game, Andy is inevitably swallowed whole by a Giant Mook. This looks like an endgame but isn't, because the toad-like monster had earlier swallowed Andy's plasma cannon... and the hero can recover his weapon in the mook's stomach and blast it from the inside. Oddly enough, if you get eaten by the monster just after it eats your lightning gun by the start of the game, you die, since this time, he chews.
  • Lava Is Boiling Kool-Aid: Subverted. Creator Eric Chahi is particularly fond of geology, specifically of the volcanic variety and for its time the lava in the River of Fire level moves and behaves more like real lava than in other video games. With a more viscous thick mass and bubbling cracking texture.
  • Leitmotif: The soundtrack written by Bruce Broughton and performed by the Sinfonia of London is composed of multiple recognizable musical phrases for several characters. The different themes are present throughout the score and are altered depending on the setting and context.
  • Life Energy: Whatever powers Andy gets from touching the glowing green rock act something like this. He can use it to cause seeds to sprout into vines for him to climb, stun wildlife by overloading them with it, and flat-out vaporize shadow monsters.
  • Lightning Gun: Andy's default weapon. It gets taken early on in the game, but he gets it back. And then, it runs out of power.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: You won't see any blood, but you're still going to see yourself die in a wide variety of gruesome ways. Being literally disintegrated is actually one of the least horrific ways you can die in the game.
  • Made of Iron: Andy manages to be both this and a One-Hit-Point Wonder. A lot of things can kill him, but he can still drop several times his own height with no ill effects and hold his breath for far longer than even a normal adult could.
  • Magic Meteor: The glowing rock at the bottom of a lake who gives Andy his Green Thumb and Hand Blast powers is in fact a meteor (and the lake its crater). It becomes a Dismantled MacGuffin later on.
  • Man-Eating Plant: There are three different kinds of man-eating plant in the game, five if you count the underwater sucker and tentacle monsters in the Magic Lake.
  • The Many Deaths of You: As mentioned in Ludicrous Gibs above, you're definitely going to come face-to-face with a myriad of grisly deaths, be it getting killed by plants, underwater creatures, dark shadowy beings, etc.
  • Mooks, but no Bosses: Because you will have your hands full enough with all the things that want to see you dead.
  • Never Bareheaded: Andy spends the game either donning his baseball cap or a raybeam helmet made out of a colander. Despite removing his cap and replacing it with his helmet in the opening scene, his hat is revealed to be constantly worn underneath the helmet when it is taken from him by Mefudoka. During his "salto" double jump, Andy manually grabs his hat when it's in the air to ensure it stays on his head. Although several deaths result in Andy's hat or helmet inexplicably disappearing midway through the animation. He also lets Whisky wear his hat for part of the opening cinematic.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Andy would be dead if not for some unintentional help from the monsters:
    • When just deprived of his powers, Andy is surrounded by enemies. One of them breathes fire on him; if he avoids it, the fire burns the flimsy trapdoor under his feet, sending Andy tumbling away from the danger.
    • Shortly afterward, Andy is Swallowed Whole by the Giant Mook... who earlier ate his plasma cannon, giving him back his weapon when it is most needed.
  • Nintendo Hard: With Everything Trying to Kill You, Andy being a One-Hit-Point Wonder, and enemies being deceptively fast, numerous and resilient you will indeed die a lot. And when the enemies themselves don't do you in, it'll be the environment.
  • Non-Dubbed Grunts: Andy's cries, squeals, and enthusiastic exclamations that he makes in-game are sampled from the noises he makes in the cinematics. In other language dubs the sounds are kept in both the game itself and the cinematics. For some languages it's seamless, making it difficult to tell if it was sampled from the English or French voice actor, but with the Spanish dub Andy has a considerably higher-pitched voice, making it clash more with the rest of his dialogue.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: There is no Life Meter. Everything just instakills you. The game makes up for it though by giving you save points and unlimited continues.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: During the credits, the Amigos are seen playing with the wreckage of Andy's ship and using his camera, possibly implying that the events of the game really happened.
  • Plot Hole: Early in the game, Andy's plasma gun is eaten by one of the Master of Darkness' monsters and we see it clearly get destroyed as he eats it. Yet, when Andy is eaten by the same monster late in the game, he manages to retrieve his gun which is not only not digested, but somehow perfectly intact.
  • Power Glows: The Magic Rock's green glow. It fades when the Master blows it to pieces.
  • Power Source: The Magic Meteor is the source of Andy's powers, and when blown to bits by the Master, Andy suddenly loses them... just as several enemies are closing on him.
  • Rube Goldberg Device: Andy's treehouse elevator.
  • Servile Snarker: The pink servant constantly mutters under his breath about how crappy his job is but is too terrified of the Master to say anything out loud.
  • Scenery Porn: Beautiful but deadly environments.
  • Smoldering Shoes: One of the deaths has Andy incinerated, with only his shoes left.
  • Spikes of Doom: Used as motivation to make the Servant do what his master expects of him. Surprisingly, Andy himself cannot fall victim to them.
  • Spit Out a Shoe: Whenever Andy gets eaten by something in the game, it spits or burps out his shoes.
  • The Starscream: The Master's pink servant. The Master has to destroy the glowing green rock when his servant brings it to him when he suspects that it's giving him... ideas, and eventually he starts plotting with Andy to put it back together and destroy him (though he's obviously plotting to backstab him once it's complete).
  • Super Drowning Skills: Averted. Unlike most video game characters who can drown, Andy can hold his breath for a surprisingly long time, though he can eventually drown if you don't go up for air.
  • A Taste of Power: Your start the game with a lightning gun and spend the first few screens using it to kick monster ass. Then it's swallowed up by another monster, leaving you unable to fight. Not that you'll let a little thing like that stop you... You eventually do recover it near the end.
  • Tempting Fate: The Amigo shaman proudly informs Andy that he's perfectly safe on their floating mountain, since the Darkness never once reached them before... except he's cut mid-diatribe by the hut exploding from an attack by Flying Shadows.
  • Title Drop: "Are you ready now to face the Heart of Darkness?!"
  • Took a Shortcut: In "Into the Lair", Andy manages to escape a cell and subsequently traps the Vicious Servant inside. The Servant somehow manages to get out of the cell to presumably cross the River of Fire, make his way all the way to the Magic Lake, and bring the Magic Rock all the way back to the Lair in the time it takes Andy to traverse 5 screens. How is never explained.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: Whiskey is kidnapped during a total solar eclipse, kickstarting the game.
  • The Unintelligible: The Spectres, who only speak a high-pitched babble.
  • Vile Villain, Laughable Lackey: The Master is a terrifying figure, but his most direct underling is a pink trunk-nosed servant, who looks and sounds comical, cowers in fear before the Big Bad or the hero, and ends up helping Andy defeat his boss.
  • Violence Is Disturbing: Andy can potentially suffer a myriad of horrific deaths throughout the game. From flying monsters that break Andy's spine to worm creatures that snap the young boy's neck, the amount of violence directed at a child is downright disturbing.
  • Wham Shot: The Flying Shadows are actually corrupted Amigos.
  • Would Hurt a Child: All occupants of the Darkland save for the Amigos. Every oversized bug, carnivorous plant, and ravenous shadow wants Andy dead. Even the Master of Darkness who demanded the boy be brought to him likely did so simply because he wanted the pleasure of killing Andy himself.


Video Example(s):


The Master and Servant

The Master is a terrifying figure of darkness, but his most direct underling is a comical pink trunk-nosed imp.

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Example of:

Main / VileVillainLaughableLackey

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