Hauntii Review – Haunting Beauty Can’t Sustain Eternity

As I left last year’s Gamescom, Hauntii was one of the games that left the biggest impression on me. It looked gorgeous and sounded even better. The story set up an interesting little premise, and the gameplay had enough interesting things going on to stand out amongst the masses. As such, I was more than happy to choose Hauntii, the twin-stick adventure game developed by Moonloop Games LLC and published by Firestoke, out of the sea of game releases this May to finally get my hands on the full version of the game that left quite an impression last year.

As soon as I booted up the game, it became obvious why I was so struck by Hauntii the last time. The high contrast black and white art style—black and white in the same way that silent movies were black and white, often tinted in a color to make it black and blue or black and red rather than true black and white—is simply stunning, and the cutesy rendition of ghosts in the afterlife is to die for, if you weren’t dead already. Because, as the name suggests, in Hauntii, you play a little ghost exploring the oh-so-beautiful realm of Eternity.

Welcome to Eternity

You wake up without memories and no idea where you are, but soon enough you come to realize that the place you’re in is called Eternity and that it might just be the afterlife. As you come across an Eternian, a mysterious angel-like creature different from you but one that you are clearly drawn to for whatever reason, you start to follow them and soon start the ascension at the central tower. What does that mean exactly? Not sure, and it doesn’t work out anyway. To follow the Eternian and ascend to a higher plane, you will first need to learn more about yourself, collect stars spread across Eternity, and create constellations to adorn your personal sky.

As weird as this may sound, at one point, as I was playing Hauntii, I had this thought for a second: Is Hauntii the indie, twin-stick shooter version of Super Mario Odyssey (2017)? It’s a silly comparison really, but I suppose the mind works in mysterious ways. At its heart, Hauntii is a collectathon. While there are other objectives in the story, primarily reaching certain locations, most of your time will be spent looking for the countless stars hidden across the many areas. And you’ll need them, not just because they’re shiny and you like shiny things, but because you can use them to build star constellations, which in turn unlock memories from your past, which in turn unlock gates to progress in the story. You don’t need to collect all of them, and while at first you’ll probably want to, after a while you might not mind skipping one or two. Unfortunately, the kind of secrets used to hide stars and the challenges that need to be accomplished to get your hands on them get just a little too repetitive after a while.

I’m sorry man but I need to touch that bell

But that’s not why my brain jumped to Super Mario Odyssey (2017); there are plenty of collectathons out there. It went there because of the haunting mechanic, with which you can take control of almost anything. Whether that’s a gun-wielding enemy you can use to shoot things, a bug that can float across the sky, or a tree because you just want to be a tree for a bit, You can use this mechanic to make fights easier, solve puzzles, or maybe just mess around a little bit. Unfortunately, here as well, at a certain point you know what you can do, and Hauntii only does so much to iterate on that across its regions.

It’s important to remember that you’re not just running around, haunting things, solving simple puzzles, and collecting stars, because Hauntii is still a twin-stick shooter as well. But for a genre that is often very frenetic and high-energy, Hauntii is a deliberately slower experience. There aren’t many combat encounters, although the ones that do exist have some of that energy you might expect from a twin-stick shooter; mostly, it’s used to enable things like the haunting mechanic or maybe a puzzle in which you need to shoot all the gunk on the floor.

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But you still won’t be able to avoid a few combat encounters

This more contemplative nature of Hauntii, in contrast to its genre contemporaries, is most evident in the fantastic score by Michael Kirby Ward. The clear highlight of the game and an immediate contender for best video game soundtrack of the year. Often calm, and lending a melancholic and mystical quality to every moment. It’s both small and intimate as well as grand and epic in scope when necessary, and in spite of all of that, it never loses track of the curiosity that drives the adventure.

Hauntii is a fantastic game in many ways, first and foremost its visual and auditory presentation, which has an interesting hook of a mechanic and collectibles that you want to go after. But it sadly only manages to sustain that for so long and runs out of steam before you can reach the end of Eternity.

Nairon reviewed Hauntii on PC with a review code.

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