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Heaven And Hell

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Strategy

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PC Review - 'Heaven and Hell'

by Justin on Nov. 7, 2003 @ 3:29 a.m. PST

Genre: Strategy
Publisher: CDV
Developer: MadCat Int. Software
Release Date: August 28, 2003

When the time of computers hit its peak in the 1990s, it was only natural that a swarm of games that took advantage of a computer's features flooded the market. Games like Warcraft and Command & Conquer used mice and keyboards to their benefit and set the precedent for games that sold well. Needless to say, dozens upon dozens of knock-off titles followed shortly, most of them fairly poor and generic. The real-time-strategy genre, featuring a usually-overhead view of the action and the ability to manage units and perform multiple tasks at once, is still largely comprised of PC games.

Of course, when there are so many similar titles out there, they all begin to look and feel the same. It becomes hard to differenciate one from another, and without originality, a title has no chance to compete. Heaven & Hell both has and lacks originality, but in different areas. On one hand, the title seems like it features some neat concepts: you pick to support good or evil, and set out to convert all of the communities in the game to the proper side. You do this through use of prophets, which you can control to a degree. These prophets visit the villages scattered throughout each level and preach and perform miracles in an effort to convince the village to have faith in you, the god.

While it sounds like a decent concept on paper, it isn't quite executed as well as one might hope. Controls are cumbersome, keyboard shortcuts are lacking, and the interface has a few major flaws (like gigantic tooltips that block half of the screen). Using the mouse cursor to send commands isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world, either, as the left mouse button is used both for selecting units and targeting other units - but at times, the right mouse button is also used to target objects. It doesn't help that executing a simple command, like walking, is more of a hassle than anything; the game is too picky about where you set your prophet's destination. If you don't get it quite right, he'll get stuck on walls, or take an entirely different route that you didn't want him to take. The fact that most of the units walk in an extremely slow manner doesn't add anything to the fun factor, either.

Still, these complaints don't dwarf the fact that, for a god, you are surprisingly limited in your power. In most "god games", you gradually gain new abilities throughout the course of the game until you're able to do just about anything. In Heaven & Hell, you're limited to a half-dozen or so, and most of them seem absolutely pointless. For example, you can make flowers sprout in order to make townsfolk happy, or send an army of insects to frighten them. Or you can use that handy, uh, hand of yours, which allows you to - err, pat villagers on the head. But since it takes a stunning amount of time for patting a single villager on the head to take any effect, you will feel like calling it quits just as soon as you start.

This leaves most of the work to the prophets, then. Your average profit has a few abilities that will help convince others to join your "side": he can go around town preaching, cast a magnificent rainbow, make a ghostly angel appear, and so on. Once a villager has been influenced enough, he will turn to your side, at which point he can become a type of profit or simply contribute to mana flow by converting his house to reflect his beliefs (mana allows you to do things the things that profits do, like preach and cast rainbows). But sometimes the citizens are stingy, and it takes an atrocious amount of time to get the last one or two to convert. You have to follow them meticulously and try to preach and cast miracles near them (each one taking up to a half a minute or so) in hopes of their paying attention. And once you finally get everyone on your side and are ready to move on to the next level, the game begs the question: do you really feel like doing that all over again in a bit of a different fashion?

Only when you complete the "good" campaign does the evil campaign even unlock. But after you've gone through all that trouble to unlock it, you'll find that there really isn't much point - the campaign is essentially the same, with similar missions, similar units, and so forth. Sure, there are little differences; instead of patting people on the head, you slap them a good one, for example. But these changes are merely aesthetic, and the game plays virtually the same. If you mastered the art of converting villagers to good, you'll have no problem converting them to evil, and the game becomes boring quickly.

Heaven & Hell is presented in 2D. The graphics in the game are sharp and vivid - well, at least the environments are. Animation is choppy as hell, and the actual art design isn't very interesting. There are a few neat effects going on, like the first time you see a rainbow created, but after the fiftieth time it just becomes extreme monotony. The interface isn't too exciting either. While it doesn't look awful, it fails to impress, and the huge buttons and enourmous roll-over tooltips serve to annoy rather than help.

The sound is adequate, but it never really stands out. The background music isn't too bad - for a while, at least. After spending an hour or more trying to influence a single village to join you, you'll probably want to mute the game and jam to some of your own music, if you haven't already exited the game. The voice-acting is strange, however. When you click a unit, he'll say something in a corny English accent. But when you actually have him preach, all we hear is weird gibberish talk. Sure, I can see the developers wanting to keep it simple as far as preaching goes, but it isn't consistant (and the corny English isn't really that good anyway).

Heaven & Hell is a game that plays like a simplistic real-time-strategy game, but is full of flaws (and a bit too simplistic for it's own good). The controls are troublesome, the design of the actual game could use some work, and the two campaigns really don't stand out from each other as much as they should. While the graphics are okay, and the sound could be worse, the gameplay here really brings the game down. I'd reccomend only checking it out if you absolutely need a "god game" to satisfy your cravings - though you're probably better off sticking to one of the classics.

Score : 4.5/10


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