Haven: Call of the King (PS2)

Review

posted 12/25/2002 by Tyler Sager
other articles by Tyler Sager
I like chocolate. I like cinnamon, dill, mustard, blueberries, horseradish, garlic, thousand island dressing, and brown sugar. But I certainly don’t like them all together. Even a few of those items, in combination, could be quite good. Mix them all into a single dish, and, well, I’m going to have words with the chef.

That seems to be what’s happened with the incredibly ambitious Haven —too much of too many good things. So much that it’s a bit difficult to place Haven into a particular category of game. “Action/Adventure”, certainly. But it’s much more than a typical platformer. There’s also a touch of car racing, boat racing, aerial dogfights, rail-shooters, space combat, and even something akin to the venerable Marble Madness. With so much effort being placed into getting everything in a single game, each individual aspect of the game comes up somewhat lacking.

The game starts off seeming to be a typical 3D platformer. A millennium ago, the kindly and benevolent king left to head off for some galactic crusade. Always forward-thinking, he left a giant bell with which to contact him in case of emergencies. While the king was away, the bell was forgotten and the evil Vetch stepped in and enslaved the good people of the kingdom, subjecting them to a nasty virus to which only Vetch held the antidote. Fast-forward 1,000 years and enter Our Hero, Haven, a young slave with disturbing dreams about a giant bell. Following the track of his dreams, Haven sets out with his Magnetic Yo-Yo of Death and his robotic bird, Talon.

Most of the platforming-type levels consist of the typical “find various objects to get to the next level” approach. In this case, Haven much collect a combination of cogs and feathers to reach his objectives. Haven has the usual repertoire of moves like jumping and power-sliding. In addition, he has a yo-yo type weapon that doubles as a grappling hook for some fancy zip-line action. He also has a power-shield to take the bite out of the enemy attacks. The control of all this is pretty good, but not outstanding. As a platformer alone, Haven just isn’t all that great. Add all the other elements and Haven is…well, just not all that great.

The game is about 30-40% typical platformer, while the rest is made up of driving, flying, space combat, and a few other types of mini-games. The execution of these ranges from “just OK” to “pretty bad”. None of the sequences are overly challenging, but most are overly long. I think that Haven just misses the boat when it comes to proper amounts of each part of the game. I would start each new action sequence thinking, “OK, this is kinda fun” or “hey, that’s kinda cute”. And after while, I decided I was done enjoying that particular rail-shooter, or space dogfight. Unfortunately, the game decided that I needed at least a few more levels of each. I would actually find myself cringing when I saw Haven jump behind yet another gun turret on yet another train. And cringing is just not the reaction I usually want from a game.


Figuring out what needs to be done in each level is fairly simple, with a popup menu detailing each objective exactly. What isn’t clear much of the time is why a particular thing needs to be done, or how on earth Haven would know what to do. I don’t need a lot of explanation, or even very good explanation, but I want to know who told Haven, a man who had never traveled away from his home planet, that it is necessary to destroy several giant insects in order to collect the fuel needed to launch spacecraft into warp drive. Or that it’s the brown asteroids that hide the best weapons.

The graphics are pretty good, but certainly not the best I’ve seen. The animations are sharp, the some of the fire and water effects are neat, but there’s nothing here that really wowed me. Sound effects are right on par—decent, but not great. The voice work was pretty bad, however, and the dialogue was several times teetering on the edge of intolerable.

The game plays somewhere around the 12-15 hour mark, depending on skill. For those who just don’t get enough of the game playing through the main storyline, there are several bonus items to collect and a few bonus levels to unlock. These aren’t necessary for finishing the game, but there is a slightly different ending for those with the stamina to complete all the extras. This is a good length for a game of this type, which was already starting to seriously outstay its welcome toward the end.

Will you enjoy Haven? I really don’t know. It’s not a terrible game, but there are a lot of much-better platforming games out there with which to spend your valuable time and money. For those die-hard action gamers, you’ll probably find your time spent with Haven worthwhile. For everyone else, give this a pass unless you just really need that action platformer fix and you’ve played everything else.





D+
A run-of-the-mill action/adventure that tries to do too many things, and consequently does none of them particularly well.