Hauntii Review – Life After Death

By admin Jun6,2024

Hauntii drew me in immediately thanks to its striking illustrated art direction and enchanting jazz noir soundtrack. A powerful opening sees the protagonist, an adorable ghost who recently died, attempting to ascend to a heavenly plane hand in hand with an angel-like guardian, only to be shackled and pulled back to the depths of Eternity. It’s an emotionally effective moment, and while the gameplay doesn’t always prove as captivating, it provides enough thrills to propel through an eye-popping journey through the afterlife.

As the ghost seeks to reunite with his winged companion, the game takes players across beautifully designed biomes in the realm of Eternity. From a dense forest village to my favorite locale, a bustling amusement park, I can’t stress enough how cool the game’s two-toned line art looks, especially in motion. Backing the visuals is a superb soundtrack that ranks among my favorites of the year. It bounces from sparse piano melodies and saxophone-fueled lo-fi beats to uplifting grandiose scores that effectively stir emotion. 

Despite its serenity, Hauntii is an action game at heart and plays like a top-down twin-stick shooter. In addition to the simple thrill of blasting foes with spectral energy by aiming the right stick, shooting objects lets you “haunt” them and utilize their unique abilities. Possessing other enemies can aid in the sometimes challenging combat encounters thanks to the superior firepower they can pack. Sure, I could rely on my own might, but it’s far more satisfying and effective to obliterate foes as a bomb-spewing flower bulb or take down aerial threats with a firework-blasting theme park employee. 

Hauntii routinely pushes players to rely on possession to overcome tough bouts that sometimes feature upwards of a dozen enemies firing bullet hell-style projectile spreads. The moment-to-moment blasting wears thin after a while, but creative boss encounters add interesting wrinkles. My favorite includes possessing a bomb-laden rollercoaster to drive through a trap-laden track to reach a towering monster. 

Other haunting interactions are less involved and more bespoke, like capturing a tree to shake currency and health from its branches. In that sense, Hauntii reminds me of Super Mario Odyssey, as some objects had no practical use but provided humorous, novel interactions. Other, more creative possessions let you manipulate the level design and navigation, such as raising platforms to create elevated pathways or inhabiting cosmic sand whales to navigate a turbulent vortex. 

 

Each area contains a number of hidden stars to collect, used for upgrading your number of hearts, shooting ammunition, and how often you can use the evade dash. They also unlock simple yet effective vignettes revealing a core memory of the ghost’s former life. Gathering these stars channels the satisfying scavenger hunt of 3D Mario games. Some stars lie in obscure corners, while others must be earned by completing basic side quests or performing hidden challenges, like clearing an area of threats. You don’t need them all, thankfully, as these aren’t always the most exciting tasks, and some repeat, like timed races and finding a lost dog. 

Exploring is also dampened by the deliberate movement speed, which is a notch slower than I’d like. Since most zones are expansive and require multiple visits, I often mashed the dash button to expedite travel. The elaborate art design and isometric viewing angles can also make navigating certain pathways, namely elevated ones, a tricky and sometimes irritating proposition due to the perspective. I could also do without collecting various but identical currencies to unlock different hats that, while cute, I wish you could remove instead of just switching to another. 

Though Hauntii offers simplistic shooter pleasure, my favorite moments didn’t involve blowing targets to smithereens. The voice-less story of the ghost gradually regaining precious memories only to be faced with surrendering them to crossover touched me at points. I enjoyed interacting with the kooky, amusing ghosts, like a paranoid scientist concocting hair-brained schemes to capture your angel friend like a Team Rocket villain. I never tired of soaking in the swelling musical score as the camera panned out to reveal a jaw-dropping backdrop. The beautiful ending sequence stands out as a highlight of the year. Hauntii transforms the understandable anxiety and fear surrounding death into an alluring and comforting reflection of the joy of life.

By admin

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