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Hauntii

Hauntii

Moonloop Games takes us on a journey beyond life and into a strikingly animated ethereal world.

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I've been keeping a keen eye on Moonloop Games' indie adventure game Hauntii ever since I had the chance to test the game in-person at Summer Game Fest last year. It only took a few minutes before the striking art direction and jazz soundtrack had me hooked, but as that hands-on period was brief I was always concerned about whether the basic gameplay mechanics can entertain after multiple hours of play. And it seems that concern was a valid one.

Because I've spent the last few days wrapped up in Hauntii's world and as the hours have rolled by it's become evidently clear to me that the Super Mario Odyssey-like hunting for collectible system that the game revolves around falters over time. Plus, the lack of an enthralling narrative and a few frustrations here and there elsewise start to overshadow the other brilliant elements of this indie project.

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The idea of Hauntii is that you take on the role of a ghost who in an attempt to ascend to the heavens must explore a mysterious world, gathering memories, all to be able to pass into the delightful and bright realm above. To do this, you explore various locations where you use your ability to haunt and inhabit objects and creatures to complete environmental puzzles and challenges to acquire collectibles that come in the form of stars that are used at specific points to complete constellations in the sky to earn permanent upgrades and to unlock the ability to travel to new zones. As you can see, the very core premise at the heart of Hauntii is very Super Mario Odyssey, but that's pretty much where the similarities end as the gameplay and the art style are very different in practice.

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The haunting system is perhaps Hauntii's best gameplay element. By jumping into various parts of the environment, you can use new abilities and moves to interact with the world and to explore in a way that's impossible when boots on the ground. You can enter trees and shake them to dislodge any trapped goodies in their branches, haunt enemies to turn their abilities against their friends, hop into insects to scuttle up trees and to reach new heights. There are a lot of ways to haunt and interact with the world and Hauntii is at its best when it lets you approach puzzles as you see fit.

The problem is that the core story that drives your exploration struggles to rope you in. It lacks weight and importance, and the way it is told and expressed lacks conviction. It always feels as though the story is of semi-importance, one that doesn't require much of your attention, and I suspect a lot of this is down to the fact that there's no spoken dialogue and the only written dialogue is pushed forward through text boxes that pop up when you interact with other ghosts, for the most part, optionally. Essentially, you have to want to follow the story, discovering ways to continue to piece it together, rather than it being a core attribute of the Hauntii experience.

HauntiiHauntii
Moonloop Games
HauntiiHauntii
Moonloop Games
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The puzzles in the world are a bit hit or miss too. Some are excellent and a lot of fun to complete, whereas others are repetitive and a little tiresome, or embedded in the game in such a way that you will probably miss them several times before realising they were ever present, i.e. when a collectible is located at the top of a tree and out of regular sight. This is in part a problem with the way that Hauntii is visually laid out and animated, as while the often monochromatic colour scheme is a visual treat, in practice it can be a nightmare to navigate. The world all blends together and it can be a nuisance visualising depth, finding things behind other things, or even generally navigating each location, as there's no region map to follow and the world map isn't much use for anything other than tracking your collectibles.

The perspective and difficulty navigating it also affects the combat as it can be hard to be precise when depth is challenging to perceive and manage. It takes a bit of the sting out of the action when you feel as though you're fighting the controls to aim and angle your attacks correctly, but thankfully the combat is quite straightforward and not overwhelming as Hauntii is first and foremost supposed to be a more relaxed experience. This relaxed theme does mean that the pacing of the game is a bit too slow a lot of the time, and the increasingly tedious exploration and puzzle solving and narrative woes don't help to aid this either.

Hauntii
Moonloop Games
HauntiiHauntii
Moonloop Games

Sure, the ethereal jazz soundtrack is a blast to listen to and feels perfectly designed to suit this game world, and the fact that you can customise Hauntii with different hats and clothing items brings a bit of personality to the game. Yet, I can't help but feel as though Hauntii is missing something else to fill some of the gaps and to help pry your eyes away from the more conflicting areas. There's a charm to this game, you can feel it while playing, but it never quite comes out in practice and while I do see brilliance in some areas of this indie project, it also never quite managed to hook me along the way. Either way, if you love video game artwork and graphic design, there's a lot to appreciate here as it is for the most part a stunner.

Moonloop Games
06 Gamereactor UK
6 / 10
overall score
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