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Critical Reception: NanaOn-Sha/Zoe Mode's  Haunt

Critical Reception: NanaOn-Sha/Zoe Mode's Haunt

January 25, 2012 | By Danny Cowan




This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to NanaOn-Sha's Kinect-powered horror title Haunt, which reviewers describe as "one of the more entertaining and atmospheric Kinect games yet." Haunt currently earns a score of 71 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.

Eurogamer's Dan Whitehead scores Haunt at 7 out of 10. "One of the worst side effects of the supposed battle between 'hardcore' and 'casual' is the need to make everything drab and serious," he observes. "Nowhere is this more obvious than in horror gaming, as adolescent gore and po-faced melodrama have become the main signifiers of the genre."

Whitehead continues: "Remember when it was possible to be spooky and fun? PaRappa the Rapper creator Masaya Matsuura obviously does. Haunt, his Kinect-exclusive ghost-'em-up developed with help from the UK's Zoe Mode, is wonderfully silly and deliciously camp. It's also sort of scary, but not in the blood-soaked manner we've come to expect."

Whitehead praises the effective implementation of the Kinect hardware: "It rewards big enthusiastic movements, yet is subtle enough to detect the difference between normal walking and cautious tip-toe creeping. Unlike too many other motion games, you're never struggling to register your intentions - the game keeps things simple but effective.

"The environmental interactions, therefore, are predictable enough - opening doors, turning gears, pulling levers - but the world is solid and chunky enough for it to feel satisfying. There's a slightly exaggerated carnival funhouse feel to the visual style, and it's augmented with appropriately Gothic sound design."

"There's no getting away from the fact that Haunt is a slight experience, but it's also very charming and a game that is carefully crafted to work with both the Kinect controller and its intended young audience," Whitehead writes. "Not a game you'll keep coming back to, but for parents it's still worth the 800 Microsoft Point asking price for the short but sweet entertainment it offers."

Dave Rudden at Official Xbox Magazine rates Haunt at 8 out of 10. "It may be hidden in Marketplace's shadows, but Haunt isn't forgettable XBLA fare. In fact, it's one of the more entertaining and atmospheric Kinect games yet," he asserts.

Rudden describes one particular character as a highlight: "Voiced by famed developer Tim Schafer, Muldoon is one of the most endearing NPCs since Portal 2's GLaDOS and Wheatley. A few flat readings aside, Schafer delivers a stellar performance thanks to a delightful script that keeps you moving just to hear Muldoon's comments on each bizarre situation."

The control scheme is initially cumbersome, but proves effective. "While it takes a few minutes to grow accustomed to the Kinect control scheme," Rudden admits, "Haunt's 'point-and-walk' movement becomes second nature before you know it, due mainly to the numerous hotspots you can hone in on with the flashlight pointer."

"The game's arguably a bit short (though it is $10), and some of the ghost encounters are marred by attack prompts that aren't always recognized," Rudden warns. "But if you have the patience (and the health reserves) to endure a few irritating battles, you'll find Haunt worth the visit."

Metro GameCentral's Roger Hargreaves gives Haunt a score of 7 out of 10. "Although some people seem to have gotten the wrong idea from the start," he notes, "Haunt was never intended to be a serious survival horror and this is much more akin to The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland than Silent Hill."

"it's clearly a perfectly sensible approach for Kinect's core audience," Hargreaves continues. "And the funny thing is the game is actually genuinely scary on occasions. Only in terms of cheap jump scares admittedly - but that's more than something like Resident Evil 5 ever managed."

Hargreaves likens the experience to Sega's Rise of Nightmares. "In terms of mechanics this is very much a simplified version of Rise Of Nightmares, but considering most of that game's faults came from overcomplicating and overburdening the controls that also is no bad thing," he says.

"Considering Kinect's limited repartee though Haunt does better than almost any other game we've seen in terms of consistency and variety. As you'd expect given NanaOn-Sha's pedigree there's some excellent use of sound and music, but also a successfully pragmatic approach to Kinect's technical limitations."

"Although we don't think it was originally intended that way this is an Xbox Live Arcade download and not even a particularly expensive one at that," Hargreaves concludes. "Microsoft don't seem interested in giving a proper marketing push, but then they weren't with Child Of Eden either and next to that we think this is probably our favourite use of Kinect so far."


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