Haven: Call of the King
Game Info
Platform(s)
PS2, GC, Xbox
Publisher
Midway
Developer
Traveller's Tales
Genre
Platformer
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Mild Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Lots of variety in levels
• Solidly built with great frame rate
• Fine musical score

The Bad

• Some elements are not as polished as others
• Yo-yo weapon is poorly executed
• NPCs look and sound ugly

 
Grade
C+

When Midway and Traveller's Tales started the PR for their adventure/platformer title while it was in development, they touted it as this hugely ambitious title in which the player could grab a car, boat or ship during any part of a level and ride around. Rather than just sticking to the easy formula, their ambitious goals of creating a fully seamless world, like a platformer version of Grand Theft Auto, were interesting and promising.

The story begins as the main character Haven has prophetic dreams of a Golden Bell. He and his people are slaves to the evil Vetch, who has commanded them for many years to do his work. On top of that, Vetch rations out an antidote that keeps the people alive as they've all been infected by a virus to keep them submissive. Vetch learns of Haven's dreams and wishes to have his henchmen deal with the slave.

While there are a number of other gameplay aspects incorporated into Haven, the main heart of the game is its platforming segments. Haven himself has the standard range of abilities, including the double jump and a "butt-bump"-style jumping attack. He also has a shield, which can be powered up with blue energy, and a yo-yo weapon. You'll find that the blue magnetic energy is important to powering up other parts of the game, including opening gates, giving Haven temporary invisibility or a round pinball-like barrier to get through certain areas. From time to time, you'll be able to locate energy packs that allows Haven to shoot lasers for a limited period of time, either on the run or in first person mode. The yo-yo itself is Haven's main weapon, and can be used to attack enemies and all sorts of barrels. Platformer fans will find a number of familiar elements borrowed from other games in the genre. From time to time, you'll have the "run towards the camera while jumping and dodging" platformer scenario from the Crash Bandicoot series.

Alongside the platforming are various other segments, most of which are linked to story events. If Haven jumps onto a train to go from one location to another, expect him to act as the tailgunner, firing at enemies as the train moves along. Need to cross a lake, grab a nearby boat. Spaceships and jetpacks are also available for use as the need dictates. While these additional segments are a nice change of pace, most feel underdeveloped in comparison to the main platforming segments.

You'll find that a major aspect of Haven is collecting, whether it be collecting cogs to activate machinery or colored feathers to call your mechanical bird, which will allow you to move onto the next stage, or just picking up enough antidote pellets to stay alive. Picking up blue energy is fairly necessary on its own for both your shield and to activate certain areas just to move on. Don't be surprised to have to backtrack just get more blue energy just to pass on. Luckily, both the antidote and blue energy regenerate on such a regular basis, you shouldn't have too much trouble getting either.

Visually, the game seems to use the same design and look as fellow platformers Jak & Daxter and Ratchet & Clank. The levels are bright and fairly large, with a nice bit of environmental detail. While the basic engine seems to be put together well and runs at a great framerate, the minor and often more important aspects seem lackluster and unpolished. Most of the NPCs look ugly and a lot of the game's textures are blurry or just uninteresting. Some of the parts of each location feel unfinished or unconnected. In some locations you may even find rocks and debris almost floating above the ground and at times, Haven himself looks like he's floating on air as he runs.

One of the finer aspects of the game is the soundtrack, which is well done and feels exceptionally appropriate for the game. The voice acting is fairly standard, even if some of the nameless NPCs feel stale. Sound effects are decent, even if they seem to be taken from the same pool as most of the genre. At times, though, some of the sound effects seem to lack definition and can even become annoying. For example - in one scenario you must help put out fires in a village. At this time, the game is permeated with incessant wailing that can neither be identified as the screams of villagers or as a fire siren. Either way, it grates on the nerves.

One of the biggest complaints I have about the game is that very little of the gameplay is explained or even given much in the way of reason. You seem to just be doing stuff to keep from being bored to death. Also, the mechanics of the yo-yo are very poorly executed. Often, you'll use it to attack exploding barrels, but its reach is barely outside the explosion range, which leaves you either taking a lot of damage unnecessarily or slowly inching forward to smash them by process of trial and error. Along with that is that the game is linear to a fault, removing any of the promised free-roaming aspect of it. You won't be able to just into a ship or boat unless the game dictates it.

I'll give Traveller's Tales credit for the effort, even if they didn't deliver everything promised. Haven isn't a bad game, but one that needs more polish and some refinement of its elements. The game gives a good challenge and the various additional gameplay elements do manage to break up the game well. It's not as finely realized as some of its competition, but it should provide a good rental for fans of the genre.

- - Kinderfeld

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