STORY / GAMEPLAY
The whole story is interactive, thus the game is not linear in design. The endings that you experience, and the paths you take to reach that ending, are completely dependent upon the actions and decisions that you make throughout gameplay when faced with a puzzle or obstacle. It is important thus to that you're aware when you've chosen a story pathway that could have been approached from a different direction. For this, a Plot Branch Alert system is used in the game, which will appear at any point in the adventure when you've chosen a path that could have been approached in different way. The Plot Branch alert only alerts you to the fact that you have bypassed a potential piece of the story or it simply indicates that there was another plot path available for you to proceed down.
Gameplay also involves a Romance Meter.... Your actions and choices will not only determine the physical flow of the story-line but also the relationship between Kate Lomax and Jake Masters! To see how you're doing in the romance department, you can access the Romance Meter which visually displays Kate's current feelings (passionate, neutral and cold) towards Jake. So at any time you should keep a watch on the Romance Meter, as you may solve all of the game's puzzles correctly and still not get the optimal ending sequence if Kate and Jake aren't going well in their relationship.
While travelling, you'll find that you can pick up companions who will travel with you and may provide you with aid. Because each one has its own strengths and weaknesses, you'll need to place different individuals in control. Each character has different skills and knowledge, so you need to learn how to use them. The characters present in your party are represented by icons located in the bottom corners of the screen and always shows the character that is controlling the action as well as the ones inactive (secondary characters). From this panel you can choose which character is taking the an action, so switching to the one which will lead the adventure is an important part of the puzzle solving. You can also give items to one of the characters from the inventory too.
Along your way you will travel through many places and meet lots of people that may provide you with aid. Whether it'a a bar tender, lowly shop keeper or mysterious ninja you should treat them all with the same amount of respect as their help is vital to you mission. All have personalities and a past, and it is important to remember this when you deal with them. Also, just like real people, they remember things that 've said or done to them. Keep this in mind because everything you say and do will affect their actions in the future.
It's easy-to-use point and click interface allows you to explore, communicate and interact.
The game offers several story-based sequences during gameplay, and these are intended to convey information that heightens the cinematic experience of the story.
Heart of China is great, and offers enough puzzles to keep you guessing and action sequences to keep your pulse going. The only downside here is the high number of disks (if not played via whdload) as this is a nine disks game on the Amiga, and disk swapping is extremely frustrating.
GRAPHICS / SOUND
The graphics are stunning, with beautiful but only 16-colored backgrounds (256 on the Macintosh version) populated with digitized actors who have been retouched to blend-in with the backgrounds. Blending real people and hi-res backgrounds gives he game a wonderfully rich feel, and adds no end to the all-important atmosphere. Also a lot of the scenes are animated with people walking about and so on, which takes this from being your standard clicking on a pretty picture to an interactive-type experience.
Soundwise, although sound effects are fairly thin on the ground, you get plenty of oriental music that helps to enhance the atmosphere already done by the graphics.