Last week I went down to Cologne to attend Gamescom 2023, which took place from August 23rd to August 27th. While I was there I had the chance to go hands-on with Hauntii for 30 minutes. I’ve had my eye on this little twin stick shooter, adventure game since it was first revealed earlier this year. Upon watching the announcement trailer, what struck me the most about Hauntii – developed by Moonloop Games, and published by Firestoke – was how beautiful it looked and sounded, but I wasn’t yet convinced by the gameplay, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to see for myself if Hauntii had more to offer than just a shiny exterior.
As mentioned above, Hauntii is a twin stick shooter, but the game’s focus isn’t the combat, at least not based on what I played. Instead, it puts a spotlight on the exploration of your environment, and the experimentation that comes with it. Because Hauntii’s primary mechanic, apart from shooting things, is that you can haunt the objects that you’re shooting at, in essence taking control of them. For the record, this doesn’t mean the combat is bad, maybe a bit basic from what I saw, but solid for what it is.
In regards to what can and can’t be haunted, the general rule of thumb seems to be: if it exists in the level, you can probably haunt it. And you’ll want to experiment with what’s possible as much as you can, since every object, or creature, comes with its own set of abilities. Maybe it lets you shoot explosives that get rid of obstacles or fight enemies, or it lets you float from tree to tree, enabling a whole new mode of traversal through the level. Whatever it is, it will change the way you approach the challenges around you, allowing you to find your own way through each level.
If you can manage to solve the puzzles spread throughout the world, you will gather collectibles that allow you to build constellations, uncovering memories of Hauntii’s past life. You won’t need all of them, there are extra ones that instead increase health or damage, but if you’re a collector like me you’ll probably want to try and get them all regardless. Based on the few pointers I got, I can already tell that this is the kind of story in an indie game that will really (try to) pull on your heartstrings.
You’re Hauntii, a ghost who wakes up in Eternity, a mysterious world filled with other ghostly creatures like you. There are also Eternians in this place, white, glowing, angel-like creatures that guide lost souls to what seems to be an ascended plane. You don’t know who you are, and you don’t know your place in all of this, but you seem to have a connection with one of these Eternians, and the only way to find a way out of here is to reconstruct your memories. If this doesn’t end with an emotional climax, I would be surprised.
But what really blew me away is the same thing that caught my attention with this game in the first place. The presentation of it all is unbelievable. The art style is stunning with its mostly black and white world that’s slightly tinted with the hues of other colours as needed. This isn’t exclusively a stylistic choice, by the way, although it is a striking one, it’s also an important aspect of gameplay. You’re not safe in the darkness, and often have to somehow bring light to the vast blackness surrounding you to continue your travels. Accompanying the beautiful visuals is a score that got me emotional even just with the little I’ve heard of it from the beginning of the game. There’s one moment in particular, where the camera pulls back to reveal a massive, otherworldy landscape, and the music swells in the background, that affected me more than I’d like to admit.
Hauntii is a game that’s poised to become an indie hit once it comes out. What I got to see of it simply works, with little to no complaints from my side as of now. The game is set to release in 2024 and will be available for PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox Series, and Xbox One.