Heaven & Earth. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Alfred C. Giovetti
Heaven & Earth is the first software offering produced by the newly formed Buena Vista Software to target a wider audience than Disney Software, another Disney computer products unit. It's been called an antiarcade game in that it provides a respite from the standard shoot-'em-ups and kill-the-evil-wizard games.
Heaven & Earth is a peaceful grouping of three games: The Pandulum, the Heaven & Earth Card Game, and The Illusions, which in turn can be combined to form the Pilgrimage, patterned after the Buddhist path of 108 steps to enlightenment. Oriental concepts for seasons organize and provide structure to the games. Earth, air, fire, and water are paired with winter, spring, summer, and fall to form the 12 seasons used for the 12 suits in the Heaven & Earth Card Game, the four levels of The Illusions, and the backgrounds for The Pendulum.
The first and most obscure of the antiarcade games is The Pendulum. The pendulum can only be persuaded to move in the needed direction to strike the positive stones, which will remove stones from the geometric design below the pendulum. If the negative gravity vortexes, or stones, are hit by the pendulum, more stones appear. As with all the games, there's no way to lose The Pendulum game, and you can keep playing until you win, no matter how long it takes.
The Heaven & Earth Card Game uses 12 suits to match up two-, three-, and four-of-a-kind suits of the same month or the same central pattern of ocean, mountain, desert, or sky. Points are gained by getting more similar cards, having no cards left over, and having animations on the paired cards. Animations are special cards that combine animation with digitized sound, creating, among other things, the star Betelgeuse, a tornado, and lightning.
The 576 illusions are divided into 12 types of four difficulty levels, with 12 illusions per type. The Illusions, which basically consists of computer-based puzzles, gets progressively more difficult as the game progresses. The illusion types include antimaze, identity, grouping, and "fit fall," a Tetris-like game puzzle. These are further classified into four increasing difficulty levels of ocean, desert, mountain, and sky. Each difficulty level brings a change of rules that makes the next set even harder.
The Pilgrimage is a combination of The Heaven & Earth Card Game, Illusions, and Pendulum, with 26 unique and different puzzles that allow you to save your progress in a kind of marathon of Heaven & Earth. You must complete the current game before you can move on to the next, in contrast to the free access of all the individual games.
Production values are high on Heaven & Earth, as evidenced in the high-gloss, heavy-paper manual. The 640 x 480 VGA resolution is really in 16 colors with advanced dithering (shading) techniques, making the limited palette look more like 256 colors. Installation into 6.5MB of hard disk space is quick and easy. The Pilgrimage supports six save games, as well as pause and load functions. The digitized music, gongs, and whistles have a definite oriental flavor, giving away the fact that some of the designers worked on Shanghai and Ishido.
Heaven & Earth has an intangible beauty about it, something inscrutable and mystifying. That's not just an illusion, if the large number of sales to women--a group that traditionally avoids computer games--is any indication.
On the surface, the game appears to be simply another game that combines three lesser games to give substance to the product. On closer inspection, though, you see that each of the game modules is a full game in itself, needing no support from the others. All of which makes Heaven & Earth a most unusual--and rewarding--game.
IBM PC or compatible (10-MHz 80286 or faster); 640K RAM; EGA, MCGA, VGA, VGA gray scale, or Tandy 16-color; hard drive with 6.5MB free; mouse recommended; supports Sound Source, Thunderboard, Sound Blaster, Ad Lib, IBM PS/1 audio card, and Tandy DAC sound--$49.95
BUENA VISTA SOFTWARE 500 s. Buena Vista St. Burbank, CA 91521-6385 (800) 688-1520
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