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Heart of the Alien

Genre: Action Developer: Delphine Software Publisher: Virgin Games Players: 1 Released: 1994

One of the most critically acclaimed games of the early nineties was Another World (also known as Out of this World in North America). Released in 1991, it told the tale of Lester Knight Chaykin, a physicist who’s stranded on a hostile alien planet after an experiment goes awry. What set this game apart from its contemporaries was the way it managed to convey a story in a cinematic fashion while at the same time boasting pretty good gameplay. The game was ported to almost every platform available at the time (and then some) and paved the way for Flashback, which many critics referred to as being a spiritual successor to Out of this World because of its similar storytelling and fluid gameplay.

What many people today forget though, is that there actually exists a true sequel to the classic. Contrary to the other two games, this game was exclusively released for one and one console only! That console was the Sega CD, and the name of the game is Heart of the Alien.

Now for all those who never played Out of this World before (which, considering the number of platforms the game has been released on – counting thirteen official and at least six unofficial ports – seems unlikely) but intend on doing so, let me tell you that this is the definite version to get! This is because both the sequel and the original game are included on the disc. So basically, you get two games in one; or rather, you get the fully enhanced tale, since storywise Heart of the Alien picks up right after the cliffhanger ending of Part I. Now, you may ask, is it worth it?

What put the original on the map was its immersive atmosphere. It was the first game to connect gameplay virtually seamlessly with cut scenes. Granted, the polygonal graphics weren’t quite as beautiful as the bitmaps used in classic jump-‘n-run or a point-and-click adventures, but the adventurous feel more than made up for it. Not only could you do more than just run or jump (but also depending on your situation shoot, swim, duck, crawl and other things), but you could truly interact with your surroundings. It actually felt like you were playing a movie while at the same time, you maintained control over your environment (and not just in the “push a button at the right moment” interactive movie style). I admit that the graphics look a bit dated by today’s standards (they touched upon the looks of the original slightly, but I feel that they could’ve done more – Heart of the Alien doesn’t reach the graphical quality of Flashback, even though it was released at a later date). They still do their job nicely, though.

It’s the whole cinematic feel that makes this such an enjoyable experience. You keep on playing because you always want to know how the game and story further develop. Since Out of this World ended on a cliffhanger, starting up Heart of the Alien right after finishing the first game feels even more rewarding. The sequel uses even more cut scenes to carry the story, which still connect pretty well with the rest of the gameplay. Whether this was necessary or not might be debatable (purists may complain that this breaks up the seams between the movie and the gameplay parts), but it still manages to tell an exciting sci-fi story, even without the use of voice actors or screen texts.

However, the downside of the game is its relentless difficulty. On every screen, every wrong step or action you take will kill you – not can, WILL! Environmental dangers lurk everywhere, and you painstakingly have to find out where to stand, what to do or when to avoid or kill an enemy (facing and attempting to take down every single enemy you encounter is not the wisest idea since a single hit kills you). The whole game is a trial-and-error experience. Take a few steps, fail, and try again. To quote Vlogger LordKat from his Until We Win videos, “you’re gonna die, a lot.”

Here’s where Heart of the Alien unfortunately becomes the (slightly) lesser game of the two. For one, it kicks the difficulty up a notch, right up to the point that facing enemies head on almost always leads to certain death. Also, the game isn’t quite as brilliantly designed as its predecessor: In Out of this World, any death gave you a pretty clear idea of what went wrong and what you could do to avoid it next time around. In Heart of the Alien, there are quite a few moments where you die without knowing what to do, or where you have to stand at precisely the right point and push the right button at precisely the right moment. I swear, the penultimate screen of the game drove me to the brink of madness. Also, the controls somehow seem less tight in the sequel for some reasons, which increases the difficulty even further.

However, if you’re willing to put up with trying and trying again, you are rewarded with another exciting and adventurous story. Fans of the first game finally find out what becomes of Lester (although some may not like the controversial ending), and the tale as a whole is brought to an epic close. Heart of the Alien may be the lesser game compared to Out of this World or Flashback. However, it is still a great and enjoyable experience, a must-have for fans of the two other games, and highly recommended for those who never played either but are willing to try. If you only want to get one of those games… well, you might go for Flashback, since it plays and looks better and isn’t quite as relentless. But the Sega CD game Heart of the Alien comes in as a close second, since you’ll receive two games, a true sequel to a classic and the original itself with a rearranged and high quality redbook audio soundtrack.

SCORE: 8 out of 10

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3 Comments

  1. goldenband says:

    I didn’t much enjoy the Heart of the Alien half of this. Basically, it comes down to three things: one, the controls have taken a big hit over the first game, and your character moves in a weird, granular, laggy way that’s very hard to control with precision; two, the game now expects you to have pixel-perfect accuracy in many places, and combines that with a penchant for instadeath traps that feel much cheaper than in OOTW; and third, the game’s aesthetics, plot, and attitude are all wrong, and seem like a corruption of Chahi’s vision.

    Also, the puzzles are opaque and occasionally unfair: how are we supposed to know how to set the bomb, for example? The button combination isn’t mentioned in the manual. Sure, I guessed it eventually, and was able to solve every puzzle on my own until the very last screen, when I finally caved, looked at a walkthrough…and discovered yet another undocumented input I was supposed to do to an almost-invisible background object. Yes, the original game had undocumented inputs too, like the tuck-and-roll you do at one point, but there it felt totally natural; here, it feels like screw-you-itis.

    I also think this OOTW port isn’t that great. The Redbook audio is OK — sometimes it’s decent, sometimes not — but the vocal sound effects have been redone, and are generally a cheesy downgrade from the originals. The controls also seem both accelerated and unresponsive, if that makes sense — things move quickly, and yet on multiple occasions I noticed lag beyond what I’m used to in other versions. I’d rather play the SNES or 3DO ports over this one.

  2. pattersonk092 says:

    this game is very difficult at most times. i’ve to play with cheats to beat it but i put up one hell of an effort not to. that said, i still really love this game. the atmosphere is unlike any other on the sega cd, well maybe Flashback. even with the difficult level of gameplay i’d still highly recommend this one.

  3. somemadcaaant says:

    excellent sequal

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