The Black Heart has the best production values of any free game ever released. It is dope as fuck. I mean, I try to use sophisticated language when describing games, but some times, times such as this, there is no phrase that could be more appropriate than saying: this game is awesomely, extremely, manifestly dope as fuck. Are you with me?
Imagine the carnage of comic book sprites tearing into each other on your dusted-off Sega Genesis and combine that with fresh re-imaginings of horror-movie archetypes, then lace it up with a 23-hit combo and shoot it in the head! Then watch it ressurect and turn your face inside out! That's The Black Heart.
Made with the M.U.G.E.N. engine (not to be confused with the guy from Samurai Champloo) by Argentino filmmaker Andres Borghi over seven-long years of passion and occult ritual, the game is loaded with a B-movie narrative touch that seeps into every fiber. Little details make these characters seem totally alive, even though a full third of them are living dead, for insance the ghostly, knife-wielding child Peketo will swap heads with his doppleganger whenever you play Peketo vs. Peketo, or the Ringu/Grudge-inspired Noroko will sometimes drag her bloodied fingers against the screen in a fightening flash when she is victorious. The visual effects, the kinetic candor of the animations, they all just scream out to you while at the same time clashing with the low-fi graphical details in some of the character drawings and cut-scenes. The whole aesthetic takes the pulp motif and makes it work in a game like nothing else before, forget Resident Evil or even The Dishwasher, this is a title deserving of analogy to Quentin Tarentino, or perhaps more fittingly since the author is Latin American, to Roberto Rodriguez.
But the gameplay, is it any good? The gameplay is good as... as fuck! It's really good! Turn up the speed dial and turn down the difficulty a bit, and just button mash, and you'll feel powerful and savvy and agile without much skill. But, should you invest the time into learning a few special moves, into mastering the timing of blocks and counters, and you'll find a richly deep vector-clash experience in the tradition of Street Fighter 2. The replay value in the far end of the experience, in team-based multiplayer, is surely on par with $60 games like Soul Calibur 9 or Tekken 14 (lost count of these franchises), it's almost worth buying some USB gamepads so you can rock out with your friends and never have to buy another fighting game again.
The final boss' name is Final, yeah? And somehow, Borghi manages to make you think that's a damn good name for this beast that reminds one of the shadow-stalkers from Planescape:Torment. You can play as a Treant that on victory will sip yerba mate and comment "es amargo". There's also the obligatory femme fatale, a non-humanoid serpentine monster, and a shape-shifting hermaphrodite based on everyone's favorite aeon-summon. It just oozes style and thickness with every key-press like a bloodied survivor of multiple stab-wounds, and likewise, it just won't quit.