Heart of China is set in front of the picturesque background of Asia in the Thirties to draw the player into a breathtaking adventure. In the role of Jake 'Lucky' Masters, an unsuccessful flight-ace of World War I, who is trying to earn his money with a small company in tourist business now, you are forced into a rescue mission for Kate Lomax, the daughter of a ruthless landowner. Kate was kidnapped by Li Deng, a local warlord, as an addition to his collection. As her father has bought your company's bonds, but offered you a reward of $200,000 for the return of his daughter, you have no chance, but to take on this order. Alas, there is another bad point: Lomax will reduce this reward by $20,000 per day, so you have no time to loose to free Kate from Li Deng's grasp and bring her back to her father.
On your journey you make friends with the ninja Chi and Kate, who travel along with you and later may also be controlled. This is important, as some riddles can only be solved in teamwork. One of the main points of the game is it's non-linear plot. There are serveral crossings within the story and many riddles can be solved in various ways. The game has even different endings. The riddles themselves are quite typical. You have to collect and combine several objects in order to solve your problems. An interesting facet is, that you are also able to swap these objects between the characters, which is important as the characters have different skills. The dialogues may be very tricky, as Lucky is an arrogant loudmouth sometimes, and you have to choose your answers carefully.
The controls are quite easy, as you have a point and click interface, which is a bit unusual at first, but comfortable, once you got used to it. In the lower right corner you can see your inventory, which can be extended with a picture of the active character, in order to put things into his hands etc. There is one action with which I had some problems however: Lucky can shoot with his .45 Magnum. To do this put the pistol into his hands in the inventory, then hold the right mouse button and aim with the crosshair. The fire button is SPACE.
The game's backgrounds are beautifully drawn. Sometimes you might get the impression to stand within a real artist's painting. These are combined with digitized characters and some animations. Overall a really nice composition of various graphical elements, which is a rare phenomenon for a game of this age, even if some graphics look a little dusty after almost 15 years. The sound is very atmospheric and underlines the plot well. Soundeffects are seldomly used to strengthen more intense situations. You can choose between the usual types of soundcards, which are all emulated in DOSBox without any problems.
Heart of China was released in 1991 by Dynamix, which was an subsidiary of Sierra and usually developed the company's action oriented games. Therefore you get some nice action sequences within the game, which can fortunately be skipped. A big achivement for all hardcore adventurers among us. The game also contains Sierra-typical elements. So you should better save often... Nevertheless Heart of China is one of the grand adventures in the gaming world and should be in every adventure-fan's collection!
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