In 1992 when Heaven & Earth was released, most games fit a particular mold. The designers of Heaven & Earth tried (and succeeded) to offer something a little different. Inspired by Tibetan and other Asian cultural legends surrounding the existence of an esoteric ancient kingdom that is blessed with peace, harmony and goodwill, a special land known as Shambhala, Heaven & Earth is a journey of the mind that attempts to utilize the positive aspects of study, meditation and spiritual happiness in the unlikely medium of a computer game. In many respects, the game reaches it goal by presenting various tools that invite the user to relax and become immersed in exercises ranging from perception to patience. There are four diverse components of the game and each has it's own unique and captivating purpose. When you start the game, you're presented with a menu screen (the Gateway) that allows access through four "portals" (hotspots) to either the Card Game, Illusions, Pendulum or the Pilgrimage. A simple click of the mouse opens up that segment of the game and the puzzles or challenge it contains.
The Pendulum is what the designers considered a computer toy. There is no scoring involved and the original concept centers on control of a swinging pendulum so that it comes to rest over positive vortexes, thus capturing and making them disappear. This segment contains six different scenarios set in four levels. The entire exercise is original and not particularly easy to master as there are negative vortexes as well that pull the pendulum toward them. The Card Game is probably the weakest link in terms of the Eastern mysticism angle but surprisingly fun. It's a complex, interesting original solitaire game that has familiar properties reminiscent of other solitaire card games but is unique in it's own right. Using twelve 4-card deals from a starting 48-card deck that features simplistic animations, you must match cards in an attempt to get the highest score possible, based on special combinations and a wonderfully designed random "celestial" event that can occur on any card. The Illusions segment has twelve distinct types of visual puzzles, each with forty-eight scenarios (do the math: 576 possible combinations) and four levels of difficulty and most of these illusions are extremely original and conceptually well thought out. To top it all off, the Pilgrimage offers the challenge of using your experience from the other three modes of play in a 108 step journey to the mystical kingdom of Shambhala. As you travel the Pilgrimage, you are rewarded with bits of Eastern wisdom as you complete the steps, all of which are original puzzles designed specifically for this section.
Heaven & Earth is a puzzle game, pure and simple, built around an interesting central theme. The interface is simple (mouse or keyboard driven) and the overall visual appeal is pleasant. The designer's purpose (as stated in the manual) to provide a vehicle to "open your mind" is fully realized as the game provides hours of entertaining mental relaxation.
Graphics: VGA graphics (game was released in 1992) don't detract from the enjoyment of the game. With simple animations and clear, sharp artwork, the visual package is well done.
Sound: Limited in scope but not really an integral part of the game.
Enjoyment: If you're a puzzle lover or just looking for some entertaining diversionary relaxation, Heaven & Earth is top-notch. Huge variety of user friendly exercises with multiple solutions and possibilities keeps the game refreshing and fun.
Replay Value: Infinite possibilities in some of the sections and enjoyable presentation make this one of the best replayable games I've ever seen.
An original card game, a visual puzzle game and a physical pendulum puzzle rolled into one. Players can tackle hundreds of puzzles individually or in a sequential "Pilgrimage" where their progress is rewarded with zen koans.
A fun and original puzzle game, Heaven and Earth is essentially a collection of three seperate types of puzzles: an original card game, a slightly arcade-ish game called "pendulum," and a collection of intriguing puzzles called "illusions." Although puzzles are available stand-alone, there is a built-in "tournament" called the "pilgrim," which contains the most difficult puzzles of all three types. The card game itself is worth the price of the whole game. Highly recommended!
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