When the world hits the fan, certain things come first. Family, friends and my PC all need to be kept safe; although without power the rig would be useless...aside from that, Shattered Haven plays on the emotions of how family is important no matter what, and you set out to find your loved ones, and hope that they haven't turned Grey.
Shattered Haven is reminiscent of times gone by in its graphical approach. It is isometric and has limited a colour pallet. The animations, similarly, are simple; your arms don’t move when you swing a tool, the tool just flies in front of you and the action happens. Walking around your little pixel arms swing back and forth, which really brings back the old days. The game even only used voice acting in major cutscenes, which even then involve large amounts of text and static images. Even though I wasn’t around for the days of playing games in the arcade I feel like this game could have survived there.
The gameplay though does not belong in an arcade, with the gameplay being more akin to The Legend of Zelda. You enter an area and need to find a select tool to get through to the next. The only way to get said tool is by doing a certain number of mini games that involve you killing Greys, which are zombie like enemies. The challenge of these games varies from being stuck in a maze that you need to get out of whilst surviving the local Greys, to luring them to step on landmines. All the while you are trying to get the highest score possible in each level by doing bonus missions for each puzzle. The issue though is that it seems like that as soon as I got invested in the story, the game suddenly relied on doing seven or eight puzzles just to get a tool for the next portion. I wouldn't mind, except the puzzles really are not all that hard. A quick glance can normally tell you what to do. When you die in a puzzle you can just restart it free of any real penalty. You could also read the descriptions on the bonus missions to guess what was coming up; combined with a little guessing, the puzzles really held no surprises at all. An interesting aspect though is how they go to the effort to explain the puzzle-realms, and the portals to move between them. These portals start you from scratch in a puzzle and don’t let you take something from a puzzle back to the normal world. In both the puzzle world and what is called the overworld you find tools and can use them for various tasks; with the age old standby of re-visiting areas with new tools to find new areas. Finding the tools though is a massive pain and takes a while which really isn’t needed and almost holds a great story back.
The story is honestly just amazing. The start of the game just sucks you in. When I first started I was ready for an epic horror game, since the main menu gave off a horror vibe and the opening did the same. Once I got control of the main character I was ready to rush into whatever horrors the game held for me. Then it stopped as fast as it started, the puzzles began with little warning. I went from assuming that I would be solving puzzles in the overworld to move forward, to solving puzzles separate from the overworld. The sudden change in pace made it almost impossible to want to jump in and play since a memory of the initial excitement was still stuck in my head, but I had to play at a much slower pace. Other than that though the story was great. It kept the player wondering what was coming up next and how things were connected. This combined with how the cutscenes were done really drew me in and made me want to play. However, the pace really killed the joy the story had.
The enemies you face were really not even noteworthy. They chased after you, and if they were a little more advanced, they could ignore parts of the environment. They weren’t really all that scary however, since they didn’t seem to try to actively avoid any traps you throw down apart from large environmental hazards. A more intelligent AI system could have really helped out the weak puzzles, but instead were just another piece of a rusty cog.
Shattered Haven had a great idea, strong plot, but really poor execution of the elements that made the base of the game. The puzzles would have been a blast had they been put in a bit more fluidly on the overworld, but with jumping into a portal the flow was broken. Had the puzzles been more fluid, the game itself would have been hard to put down, and really made the game an amazing indie title. Instead they were a separate element and made the game somewhat more mediocre. Now if you enjoy playing games with a medium to slow pace and puzzles that a little guessing can solve than I highly recommend Shattered Haven, but I prefer my puzzles to require a bit more thinking and a faster pace in my games. I could see that maybe for a quick pick up game once in a while would be fun. Even more so I can see a game for a kid that enjoys puzzle game but can’t get up to the complicated levels of Portal, so long as they can handle a bit of the horror genre. Overall though I think the game had some diamonds, but they were covered by a good deal of dirt.