Heartland, ZX Spectrum

Heartland is a platform action game developed and published by Odin Computer Graphics for the 48K ZX Spectrum in 1986. It features gameplay that is similar to previous Odin games, Nodes of Yesod and Arc of Yesod, with a well-animated protagonist exploring a maze-like platform world of doors and elevators.

The aim of Heartland is to locate six pages of a magical book that will allow you to defeat the evil warlock Midan. To make matters worse, Midan has created six ‘dark’ pages which have been designed to fool you, and these must also be destroyed.

Before you can collect the individual pages, though, you must first find the book, as this will tell you where the pages are (by flashing when you’re on a screen where a page resides). From your start point, the book is located three screens to the left, and you should take care not to shoot it when you first find it (if you do shoot it, it’s an immediate game over). You also need to careful not to fall off the edge of a platform, into the void, as this will also immediately end the game.

Midan’s minions are trying their best to distract or kill you, and contact with too many of them will result in the latter. Thankfully you can fight off these evil beings by throwing your Top Hat at them, or by using other weapons such as a sword, or fireballs (both of which must be collected in order to use them). You can only disable these hostiles temporarily, though, and they’ll eventually re-form after a set period of time has passed.

As you take damage, Midan’s face begins to appear on the panel at the top of the screen, and if it shows in full then it’s game over. Collecting bubbles helps reduce the growing strength of Midan, and it’s important not to the shoot any bubbles when you see them and to grab them whenever you can. Collecting small stars will also make you immune to damaging spells fired by hostiles for a short while.

When you’ve found one of the real pages you must then take it back to your bed, and from there you’ll be transported to the next land, of which there are five.

Heartland is the kind of game that will confuse anyone who’s not read the instructions. Key things to understand are: 1. don’t shoot bubbles, swords or fireballs. Learn to identify them from anything that is damaging and collect them. 2. Fireballs and swords will disable enemies with one or two shots, while your default Top Hat takes multiple shots to do the same. 3. Never fall off a platform edge. If you’re unsure if a screen leads left or right to another screen, edge toward the end of a platform, and if it looks like you’re going to fall off it: stop and turn around. 4. Try to remember where your bed is and return to it when you have a new page. Use a map if you’re unsure. 5. You need to face in the right direction to enter doors. You need to turn, turn, turn, if you’re not facing in the right direction. Some doors lead into the screen; others lead out of the screen. You get used to it eventually… 6. Regarding the ‘dark’ pages. I think you’re supposed to avoid picking them up, although I’m not sure how you’re supposed to identify them over ‘real’ pages. If you pick a page up and it appears blue on the top panel, then I assume you’ve picked-up a ‘dark’ page. I don’t know if this means that you can no longer complete the game or not, or if there’s any way of getting rid of them. If anyone knows: please leave a comment below.

Heartland is a decent game with excellent graphics, and is still worth playing now. If you can be bothered to work out what to do in it. It’s not difficult; just confusing initially. The game was also released for the Commodore 64 and Amstrad CPC and was critically well-received back in 1986. Also: as far as I know, no 128K Spectrum version of Heartland was released, unlike there was for some of Odin‘s other games.

More: Heartland on Wikipedia
More: Heartland on World of Spectrum

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