Author Topic: Hauntii (Switch) Review  (Read 272 times)

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Offline Oronalex

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Hauntii (Switch) Review
« on: June 14, 2024, 02:11:34 PM »

A Hauntingly Good Time

I had the opportunity to play Hauntii last year at Summer Game Fest. Pitched as an adventure game set in Limbo, Hauntii sees you playing as a ghost who explores the afterlife, which was a big selling point to me. So when the opportunity to review Hauntii came up, I jumped at it, and let me tell you, it was not what I was expecting.

   What drew me in was the setup and atmosphere: the story of a dark ghost first entering a spooky ethereal world of the afterlife. Eventually you meet your perfect match in a white ghost, and together you work towards recreating your memories from your life in the land of the living. While exploring, there are hints and whispers of an elder civilization on which the afterlife was built, but these are only vague allusions to what could be, and unfortunately they aren’t paid off. Hauntii isn’t as focused on the narrative as it is on the playground it presents.

There are two ways to interact with the world: shoot your essence in a twin-stick shooter fashion, or haunt something to obtain a new ability or two per haunted object/creature. There is a finite amount of essence gauge, but later on there are upgrades that allow that to be nearly infinite. The haunting ability, though, makes for some interesting maneuvers. Sometimes you turn into an enemy that can body slam, leaving a fiery area of effect; other times you’re a bug that can jump from tree to tree. It readily varied up the gameplay, and had me constantly looking for the next thing I could control, to see what new powers were available to me.

   What made Hauntii so unexpected is its format and delivery. The moment to moment gameplay is more akin to Super Mario Odyssey than anything else: a world built around smaller maps, each one with hidden stars strewn throughout for you to find and collect. Some are hidden on the outskirts of the map, or through possessing different creatures, while others are rewards for hidden challenges. There are races that will have you jump through rings as a bug, or some that will require you to haunt a turret enemy and defeat all the enemies in a combat arena. There are stars essentially everywhere, to the point that I would sometimes venture to the far reaches of the map, to be rewarded with a hidden, far-off star.

   The stars are actually used as an upgrade currency, where you will put them into constellations. Once a constellation is completed, you can upgrade the amount of essence you shoot, your number of hearts, or how often you can dash. These upgrades are helpful but generally the gameplay remains the same. What really makes the stars interesting is in how creative the team at Moonloop Games gets with situating them. I was always super excited to just see a shimmering star off into the distance, only to spend the next ten minutes deciphering how I was supposed to get it.

   These little victories are what pulled me through because overall the story takes a steep backseat to anything else going on, and is hard checkpointed by star count. When progressing through the small-sized maps that interconnect the world, I would be having a great time until the story would gate me off, leaving me to backtrack to hunt for more stars. Luckily, the atmosphere and hauntingly (pun intended) beautiful orchestrated soundtrack are incredibly well done. I was chilled to the end by every flute solo and piano arrangement. I would absolutely go to see this soundtrack performed live based on its sheer elegance.

   Hauntii does a fantastic job of providing a smaller scope adventure across an enigmatic underworld. Collecting stars and haunting varying enemies gave a sense of discovery around every turn. It’s beautiful in its delivery and make-up, but that’s what also holds Hauntii back: its restricted scope. It doesn’t dream big enough for what could have been. The gameplay, while fun and engaging, is super limited. Haunting and shooting aren’t enough to keep you hooked. When reflecting on my time with Hauntii, I think about the music and the art, and less so on how it played. Hauntii is a breathtaking experience, but it just doesn’t do enough with it. This game makes a compelling case for videogames as art, but it stops short when it comes to the actual mechanics.