There was a time when the future for the Kinect was in question. Kinect seemed to focus purely on casual games and when a hardcore game came along it was usually broken beyond recognition. From Rise of Nightmares, to Blackwater, these “Kinect for the core” games failed one after another. Then came The Gunstringer by Twisted Pixel, it showed that not all Kinect games had to be casual games or failures and there was hope for it yet. Then seemly out of nowhere a little adventure game for Kinect arcade came around by the name of Haunt. This game was given little to no publicity and if someone did stumble upon it they would most likely dismiss it as another failed Kinect game. Could this be another beacon of light in the slew of crappy Kinect games or will it shove the final nail in the Kinect coffin.
Upon initially starting up the game you awake in a haunted mansion and are greeted by a talking portrait. Once you complete a brief tutorial the portrait reveals himself to be Benjamin Muldoon, the owner of the mansion. He describes that he was tragically trapped within the portraits around the house by his servants. Because he apparently saved your life it’s now up to you to obtain a Phanta Flask and free him. Once you find it he instructs you to place it some sort of mechanical contraption but before you can ghosts appear and steal the three Phanta Flasks already present in the contraption. Now you must travel to three different locations within the mansion to retrieve the Phanta Flasks. The story overall is quite good, it doesn’t end to fast or overstay its welcome. Benjamin is by far the most interesting character; he is the type of person to credit himself with achievements he did not accomplish, which can lead to some funny dialogue. It also helps that Tim Schafer from Double Fine is the voice actor. Even if a joke would normally fall flat, Tim Schafer makes it somehow funny. With quirky dialogue and some fairly impressive plot twists, this is a story you will not soon forget.
For the most part all of the gameplay works well. Navigation and movement of objects feels natural and is not a hassle like most Kinect games. I did however get occasionally get caught on some objects while moving but overall nothing to severe. The combat can be tedious at times, the game often mistake some movements for others and can often lead to you taking damage. This is not game-breaking though because there are only a limited amount of enemies in each stage and you are able to sustain many blows before dying. Haunt focuses more on puzzles that combat, every stage is one big puzzle, you are either looking for a key or tool that will get you to the next stage and it usually takes multiple steps to get there. The puzzles range from the simplicity of putting a key in a lock to repairing an entire train. While the puzzles provide a challenge there is nothing you should get stuck on for to long. If you take the time to explore the mansion you can find newspaper clippings that will fully flesh out the backstory of the game. Despite a few issues the overall mechanics and level design work well.
The game has certain over exaggerated look to it. Much of the mansion has a dark but cartoony feel and greatly reflects the story. Every ghost is designed to reflect their personality and are often quite humorous. The game sounds great, while there is not much in the way of music, it’s extremely eerie when the only thing you can hear are your own footsteps. The ghost noises are done well and Tim Schafer’s voice acting is superb as mentioned before.
Overall this is one of the best Kinect games i have ever played. Haunt uses a quirky story with design that reflects that, combined with some solid game play to make a truly rich experience. For only ten dollars this game is more than worth any gamer’s time and there may be hope for the Kinects future yet.
GAME NAME: Haunt
DEVELOPER(S): NanaOn-Sha, Zoë Mode
PUBLISHER(S): Microsoft Studios
PLATFORM(S): Xbox 360 (Kinect)
RELEASE DATE(S): January 18, 2012