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Hauntii (PC)

Hauntii (PC) - Review

by Mark Nielsen , posted on 22 May 2024 / 2,219 Views

Despite being the debut release from the small team at Moonloop Games, there’s no lack of ambition to be found in the action-adventure title Hauntii. It’s a game that’s not satisfied with sticking to conventions and simply entertaining; it doesn’t choose just one area to excel at and make the rest a passing grade. It seeks to impress and make the player feel and, while it might not be perfect, it succeeds in both of those areas.


In Hauntii you play as a newly “born” ghost of the same name who finds itself in the mysterious world of Eternity, looking both for answers about its forgotten past life and what to do with its future. Gameplay-wise the game is at the core level a twin stick shooter, though this term by itself would be quite misleading as it only tells part of the story. The basic moveset includes firing off Hauntii’s “essence” as a weapon and dashing around to dodge enemy attacks or various hazards. Some parts of the game boil down to these simple tools, but fitting to its name Hauntii is just as much about haunting (or more literally possessing) various creatures and objects around the world, then using their abilities to either fight, explore, or solve puzzles.

There’s great variety in the objects you can haunt, from a ladybug, to a train, to a plain old hill, and countless more. With this mechanic in mind it’s very difficult not to draw comparisons to Super Mario Odyssey and, despite the very different aesthetics, the similarities are quite striking. To Hauntii’s credit, you can expect the same level of ingenuity at play here when it comes to the haunting powers and the various ways you can use them.


Another similarity with Odyssey comes with the collectibles to be found in the world, where Hauntii mirrors Odyssey's moons in the form of stars hidden in each area. Each of these stars is a little puzzle or challenge in and of itself. After you obtain them they can be used to fill out constellations in the night sky, unlocking not only upgrades such as more health or additional dashes, but also memory fragments from your previous life. In this sense there’s both a gameplay and a story reward to be found in filling out these constellations, which makes for a powerful incentive and a satisfying process. The only downside to this system is that there are more stars to be found in each section of the game than one is allowed to spend, but the hunt for stars is still compelling enough in its own right, so this doesn’t present much of an issue.


In several ways Hauntii is a title that delights and surprises throughout, without falling into the trap of showing off all its tricks too early. One such aspect is that, despite its top-down perspective, the game is actually three-dimensional and plays with this added dimension in interesting (if at times mildly clunky) ways. The settings and backgrounds are another area where Hauntii continually manages to impress; just when you think you’ve seen it all – you haven’t. There’s a genuine sense of wonder to be felt at several key moments along the way, making it a ride well worth seeing through to the end.


But the experience also isn't completely without flaws. Many of them are of the kind that feel insignificant by themselves but they add up when put together. If one element is to be singled out then it’s how the game handles its health system.

The heart pieces that restore your health are fairly hard to come by once you get past the early stages in the game, only dropping from certain rarer enemies or just as rare breakable objects. This in itself probably wouldn't present an issue, but when checkpoints provide no way of restoring health and you even respawn after death with only two hearts, it becomes easy to get “stuck” at low health without any way to heal back up. Hauntii is by no means among the most difficult games out there, but when it does manage to get you killed, it’s usually always because you were forced into a situation with only one or two hearts remaining - it's hardly the most satisfying way to create difficulty.

Also worth mentioning is that the game isn't without its share of bugs, as of the writing of this review, though they mostly belong in the category of little blunders that you notice and then move on from, rather than anything too detrimental to the experience.


Putting the functional aspects aside for a moment, Hauntii excels in all the surrounding elements of a game, including visuals, music, and general atmosphere & tone. Visually it’s a case of beauty in simplicity, with its hand-drawn, mostly unicoloroed world giving it a unique look that at times makes way for some gorgeous scenes. The music is another valuable element in the overall game experience, from the most relaxing background tunes to some epic and awe-inspiring ones. It’s also a large part of what helps the game convey its wide palette of emotions, from the quirky and cute to the bittersweet and – fittingly, with its ghostly themes – the eerie.

Though they might be far apart when it comes to graphical fidelity, Hauntii feels reminiscent of the Ori titles, both in these areas and with its heartfelt story, told more through images & actions than words. I won’t say terribly much on this front, as it's best experienced first-hand, but suffice it to say that while Hauntii leaves a lot of room for interpretation in its narrative, it eventually moves from wholesome memories of childhood to heavy themes about death and letting go.


As debut indie games go, Hauntii is among the best you’ll find, and it's one that shares elements with such critical darlings as Super Mario Odyssey and the Ori titles. Those would be big shoes for anyone to fill, but Hauntii dives right into the task while firing on all cylinders, from the novelty of its gameplay, to the wide array of emotions found in its story and music, and while it might not be able to compete with the very best when it comes to pure polish, the high points of the experience can match even those gaming giants.


VGChartz Verdict


8.5
Great

This review is based on a digital copy of Hauntii for the PC, provided by the publisher.

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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4 Comments
ireadtabloids (on 24 May 2024)

Thank you for the review. A lot of great games have come out from small studios this month and it has been hard to remember them all.

  • +2
Machina (on 22 May 2024)

Nice art style - I like the splashes of colour (that first screenshot with the green is beautiful). Surprisingly detailed too. I can imagine it giving me a headache after a while though.

  • +2
UnderwaterFunktown Machina (on 22 May 2024)

I think I had a mild case of that the first time I played it but not so much after that even though I put in some long sessions. I've definitely had that with some games though.

  • 0
coolbeans Machina (on 22 May 2024)

I was about to say the same thing. Reminds me of drawing on black paper with bright-colored pencils.

  • 0