Haven: Call of the King Review

The story in Haven focuses on the title character, whose race has been enslaved for a very long time by an alien race.  Haven's people's alien masters have poisoned them, and keep them in line by providing the antidote that they need to stay alive.  At the game's opening, Haven has been dreaming about a sacred bell left behind by his people's crusading king.  Legend has it that the king will return if the bell is rung, and Haven sets out to ring it so that his people can finally be liberated.

Screenshots
Haven runs from some lava.

The lone hero taking on the evil oppressor is a common theme in video games, but Haven is a game that tries to expand the gameplay of the traditional platformer beyond what you've come to expect from the genre.  You get your jumping puzzles, enemies to shoot, and things to smash and collect, but you also get the opportunity to man heavy guns and control vehicles.  The result is a game that plays like a platformer interspersed with a variety of mini games.  While the developers should definitely get an "E for effort" for trying to push the boundaries of the genre, none of the parts of the whole plays well enough to make Haven a standout title.

As a platform game, Haven fails to match the top games in the category.  It still suffers from some of the problems prevalent in the genre, such as touchy collision detection along ledges and when attacking enemies, and uncompromising linearity.  The platform sequences give you a little bit of everything - swimming, boss battles, running at the camera puzzles - but with all of them the control is a bit off and this can frustrate you at times.  However, your major source of frustration will come from the weapons in the game.  Haven gives you one of the weakest and most frustrating default weapons to appear in a game, the mag ball - what amounts to a glorified yo-yo.  When you attack, your yo-yo flies forward at an angle making it very difficult to aim and its range is limited, to say the least.  You'll need to run right up to an enemy, fling your yo-yo and hope to randomly connect, and then turn around and run when you invariably miss.  Things don't get much better when you have other weapons such as a blaster - range is no longer an issue but you still won't be able to get the thing to shoot where you're aiming half of the time.

Your yo-yo proves doubly frustrating as it is needed to smash the numerous vases appearing throughout the game.  The vases contain health power-ups and the antidote Haven needs to keep the poison in check, among other things (somehow the slaves haven't figured out that the antidote is lying around everywhere).  You'll need to get close to the vases and then nudge your facing around as you try to hit them with your yo-yo.  This is tedious enough, but things are made further frustrating by the fact that many of the vases are explosive and must be cleared before you can advance.  You'll get close to the vase, fling your yo-yo, inch closer, fling again, and repeat until you finally explode it and realize that you got too close to the blast radius.

Screenshots
Haven mans some heavy weaponry.

If this is all there was to Haven, you'd have a very average platformer.  What makes it stand out a bit from most other games is the aforementioned mini game-like sequences.  The game's engine does a great job of seamlessly transitioning between the various aspects of the game.  You won't always know why you are manning an anti-aircraft gun on a train, but you'll jump right on the train and start shooting without needing to wait for a load screen.  The sequences vary from tedious to challenging, but never really generate too mush excitement.  This is probably due to the fact that the shooting sequences are rail driven, and you never feel that you have too much control over things.  Just keep the fire button down and shoot in the general direction of the things coming at you.  The racing sequences are more enjoyable, as are some of the more unique sequences such as the one where you must roll down a path in a force field bubble.  The quick transitions and variety of challenges certainly make for a fast-paced and challenging game, but too many of them fail to deliver enough excitement on their own.

The game has a unique look, but overall the graphics fair about the same as the gameplay in that they are not consistent.  Some areas look really good, while others lack detail and are covered with sub-par textures.  Enemies and NPCs are also somewhat disappointing, and just don't look as good as those in some of the PlayStation 2's better games.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 67%.  Haven has the potential to be a good game.  Some tweaks to the gameplay and a better weapon system would go a long way towards helping this ambitious title achieve greatness.  As it stands, the game is too uneven to make it better than average.

 



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