Hauntii Hands-On Preview: A Game Possessed

I’m dead, and I don’t know it. Or, at least, I didn’t until I — standing in a ring of sickly green light — peer into the impenetrable dark threatening me on all sides. I’m in Eternity, Hauntii‘s nexus for souls. It’s not a final resting place, but rather a trailhead. None of the flittering spirits know what lies beyond this visually stellar realm. However, I’m so ready to find out.

Given the game’s somber setup, I expected a dark mood to settle over the landscape. That’s not what I got. One of the first things I did was laugh at my wiggly, hilariously animated head tail. The familiar headpiece in depictions of the deceased is here a floppy accessory that hints at the game’s unexpected sense of humor. It also demonstrates Hauntii is somehow even richer aesthetically in motion than I could have hoped for.

The second thing I did was run off the safely lighted path because I am foolish. For a moment, nothing seemed to happen. But then, out of the shadows, glowing eyes began to surround me. I’m not going to lie, I yelped and shot back into the lit walkway as fast as my ghostly body allowed. I’m not sure what might happen if I stayed out there longer, and I’m not sure I want to.

It seems like an explanation is on the way when I run into a sign, but the largely unhelpful wooden guide turns out to have more sass than answers. I learn I’m dead, which is good to know, I guess. However, the animated post flippantly informs me it doesn’t know any details about me in particular and I’ll have to figure that out myself.

Discovering who I was in life and how I ended up here is the game’s central conceit. A thread that is sure to lead me through some emotionally charged story beats, which I can’t wait to experience. Sadly, my demo isn’t long enough to dive into the narrative, but it does give me a chance to try out its twin-stick combat and possession mechanics.

I learn how to take control of things in my surroundings by a collection of friendly, and strangely talkative, hills. These geological structures don’t offer much in the way of abilities — unless you count making my eyes swirl around in dizzying circles or just vibing. It’s not long until my newly taught powers help me open a portal to another section of the realm. And this one has baddies.

The combat begins with me shooting luminous orbs at corrupted ghosts. This is made more difficult the longer the fight goes on as the ghouls radiate a miasma that caps the gauge controlling my maximum available ammo. The designers have given me another way to dispatch my foes, thankfully. By possessing a nearby statue and shaking it until it disconnects from its base, I cause it to plummet down on the ring of hostile creatures and walk away from the battle intact.

Only getting ten minutes in Hauntii wasn’t enough. Just marveling at the amazing art could take me longer, not to mention traveling deep enough into Eternity to experience bigger battles and unravel the mystery behind my death. But in the short amount of time I got to play, the game became one of my most anticipated titles of 2024.

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