Haunt (Xbox Live Arcade)

Game Review

Haunt (Xbox Live Arcade) Review

USA Wed, 25 Jan 2012 by Joe Walker

Haunt Screenshot

You want Haunt

While Kinect has had a handful of really great games over the past year, the stinkers have all had the same problems: poor controls and general lack of charm. Developer NanaOn-Sha comes along to save the day with Haunt, which controls wonderfully and drips with so much charisma it forms a very likeable puddle on the floor.

Haunt, with its first-person perspective, has you exploring the haunted mansion of Benjamin Muldoon who, for reasons not immediately revealed to the player, has lost his physical body and can only communicate by possessing the paintings hanging through his poltergeist-infested abode. In order to help poor ol' Benjy, you must traverse three different areas of the mansion to retrieve “phantaflasks” which will restore him to corporeal form.

Haunt Screenshot

The story’s got about as much weight to it as one of the ghosts infesting Benjy’s dream (or is it nightmare?) home, but luckily it’s told in very entertaining ways. Anyone who sees the name NanaOn-Sha and expects the same tone and vibe as PaRappa the Rapper or UmJammer Lammy will be disappointed; there are no rapping dogs here. Rather the game has a very Double Fine feel to it (in fact, Benjy is voiced by Double Fine founder Tim Schafer), meaning that the dialogue is sharp and witty and the amount of heart that went into the development of the game is palpable.

While Haunt looks, at first glance, to be a horror game, it isn’t quite the case; it’s more Luigi’s Mansion than Silent Hill. It’s the video game equivalent of the Ghostbusters films, focusing on the supernatural and spooky while staying surprisingly light-hearted. There are plenty of times where something will jump out at you and startle you, but it’s never overbearing or suspenseful.

The main controls revolve around moving your hand as if you’re holding a flashlight, illuminating the dim corridors of the mansion and focusing on objects that can be interacted with. Once an object has been selected (by holding your flashlight on it until the cursor shrinks, similar to just about every Kinect menu ever) you’ll be given a context-sensitive motion to perform, such as pushing a door, turning a crank or pulling a drawer open. The motion detection is spot-on and works every time.

Haunt Screenshot

In order to actually move around in Haunt, you have to walk in place, which can – and does – get tiring, but the game will actually read your leg movements and react accordingly; small steps will have you tiptoe around, while raising your knees up and making exaggerated motions will move you forward much more swiftly.

The game’s three areas focus on different abilities of Kinect — one is more about motion, for example, while another uses the microphone extensively — and everything works wonderfully. Most importantly, it’s all fun: the different ghosts you encounter will require various manoeuvres — swatting energy balls back with your hands, covering your ears to protect from loud screams, holding your nose to keep from breathing gas — that put Kinect through its paces and keeps you engaged the entire time.

Haunt Screenshot

As the cherry on top, the game is a visual and aural treat. The graphics are cartoonish but fit the dark, ominous feel of the game while still being inviting to younger players. The ghosts are all brightly coloured and well designed, while the paintings scattered about manage to both disturbing and endearing at the same time.

The sound design is fantastic, featuring a myriad of spooky bangs, rustles and whooshes. The music is perfectly balanced with the rest of the aesthetic, and while you won’t often notice it, when you stop and listen you’ll certainly appreciate it.


Haunt is a game that’s going to fly under a lot of radars, which is a horrible injustice. While it’s not perfect (trying to turn while walking is more trouble than it should be, for example) it gets a checkmark in every “this is what a good Kinect game needs” box. It’s only 800 Microsoft Points to boot, so the thought of skipping out on Haunt should terrify you.


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User Comments


1. Gamer83 United States 25 Jan 2012, 23:41 GMT

I'd like to give the game a try, it looks like a lot of fun but I don't own the Kinect nor do I have any interest at all in buying the device so unfortunately I have to miss out on this. At least Kinect owners finally seem to be getting some decent stuff the last few months.


2. teamdoa United Kingdom 26 Jan 2012, 00:24 GMT

I was waiting for the review. I think I will pick this up, looks fun and it is only 800 msp


3. adny2 United States 31 Jan 2012, 07:59 GMT

I don't understand this. It's been going on for years and years and years. Why do developers make these cool little games (and some of them more elaborate) and leave them as a quick 'one-off' experiences? Why not randomize the events in the game? randomize where items are hidden? which doors you should unlock? and characters you would meet? and maybe the events of the story as well? this way there's sure to be great reasoning for multiple playthroughs. A perfect example is Sega's Phantasy Star Online, where they made up for limited dungeons by making the game randomize the layouts of the dungeons. And also the same with and older lesser known game like Burning Rangers. An anime inspired fire fighting game. It too had random characters to save, randomized events and levels to keep you replaying those levels over and over until you eventually unlocked all the civilians in the game (including secret characters). To go back even further, take a look at the classic board game 'Clue'. That's a game where the clues are shuffled and randomized, and when all is said and done, it's not always 'the butler that did it'.

Games like Haunt, and even Ghostbusters could of benefited from randomizing the events. Even if the devs wanted to maintain a certain story structure, they should offer the random replay value as a side mode. I'd love to explore a haunted house that'll keep me on my toes, where I wouldn't know that the exact same items would always be found in the same location, and the same ghosts or characters would always attempt a spook or haunting in the same areas. The first play through, sure it would be cool. But as it is right now, the second and third and fourth would be boring and dry because you know all there is to know of the game.

By now you'd think the developers would think more about these types of games!

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