Haunt Review (XBLA) – Scary Good

Sunday, January 29th 2012. | Games News
Haunt Review (XBLA)This downloadable Kinect title is more fun than you might expect.

Well over a year after its release on the market, the Kinect motion device is really growing into its own for Xbox 360 users, not only with a few family-related efforts (Kinect Sports, Dance Central) but also a decent amount of games dedicated to the “hardcore” crowd (Child of Eden, Rise of Nightmares).  But there’s not too much of a market for downloadable Kinect games as of yet, though Fruit Ninja Kinect is doing fairly well.  Maybe that’ll change once people see how good the haunted house adventure game Haunt is.  Maybe.

The game puts you in the role of an ordinary chap trapped in a mansion, but it’s not a life-or-death situation like Rise of Nightmares offered.  Instead, this family-friendly outing actually puts you in what seems like an episode of Scooby Doo, as you work to help the eccentric Benjamin Muldoon break free from a series of paintings.  How he got there is a mystery, but it’s also part of the fun as you try to aid him while running into a few wily spirits, in which you must engage in combat.  Sadly, you’re stuck without your Ghostbuster gear.  Go figure.

Most of Haunt consists of exploration through the mansion.  You’ll open doors and drawers seeking out hidden items, using real opening and closing motions with your hand (why do we have to close them again?).  You’ll also follow clues and multiple paths through hallways, and carefully tip-toe past watchful eyes and other foes.  This is actually done through walking motions, which the Kinect tracks with utmost accuracy.  Granted, it may tired out a few folks who aren’t used to walking in place, but it’ll keep younger players active, something parents will appreciate.

And like we said, the scares never get to the heart-stopping level as Rise of Nightmares.  In fact, Haunt as a whole is a rather cute game, with humorous ghosts who strike at you (but never to the point you’re emotionally damaged) and plenty of humorous quips by Muldoon.  The mansion itself looks terrific, and the lighting effects that come from your flashlight are surprisingly realistic, with shadows coming off walls as you brighten up the place.

What’s more, the actor voicing Muldoon is quite spirited himself, and hilarious at times.  But you’ll be surprised to know that it’s not an actor at all — it’s Double Fine’s own Tim Schafer.  Yep, he provides a surprising amount of comic relief, right up there with what Stephen Merchant did last year with Wheatley in Portal 2.  These guys should get together and chat on a podcast sometime.  Seriously.

Not everything works in Haunt’s favor.  Number one, it’s a short game with very little replay value, save for checking out drawers that you might have missed out on the first time around.  That limits replayability in a pretty hasty manner.  Secondly, though the Kinect can track your flashlight motions and walking, it’s not quite perfect when it comes to taking part in combat with ghosts.  Sometimes your actions aren’t entirely read, resulting in cheap hits.  It’s the most annoying part of the game.

But don’t let that distract you.  Haunt is easily the best downloadable XBLA Kinect game we’ve played since Fruit Ninja, filled with fun surprises and humorous presentation quirks that make the downloadable price worth it.  It’s just a shame that Microsoft didn’t promote it better, because it certainly deserves it.  Maybe if it was released during Halloween…

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