Haven by The Game Bakers
In Haven by The Game Bakers, Yu and Kay are on the run. In their society, people are paired together by something called the Matchmaker in order to create the most compatible couples to presumably benefit society.
Yu and Kay love each other and have run off together, abandoning their destined pairs. At the start of this game, Yu and Kay find themselves stranded on a physically fractured planet in an attempt to hide out from their pursuers. So Yu and Kay set off to explore the planet and its islets to help further their escape.
Rust Removers and Flying Maneuvers
The planet and all its islets are covered in Rust, a red degenerative substance that is harming the planet and corrupting wildlife. Yu and Kay make it part of their mission to help rid the wildlife of Rust, while then using that Rust to help repair their ship.
Since Rust is practically everywhere, the game has implemented a fast form of travel. Both Yu and Kay can hover-glide across the ground to collect Rust quickly. Think of it as a faster sprint. This makes getting around from islet to islet easier, too.
This gameplay mechanic takes a bit of getting used to, but after a while, I got used to it and rarely had issues going forward once I learned how to drift properly.
Exploration is a big part of Haven. You’ll glide to an islet, collect Rust and food ingredients, fight some creatures, and perhaps stumble upon some ruins that open up extra dialogue sequences. This is what you’ll be doing for most of the game. It rarely deviates from this.
This isn’t necessarily a problem, but when most islets have the same visual style and geographical feel, it starts to feel repetitive. I wish exploration was more rewarding and less repetitious.
Food can be used to cook specific meals using a variety of found ingredients. Each meal eaten will heal both Yu and Kay as well as add to their collective experience bar. Resources like Rust will be used to repair the ship and craft healing or temporary combat buff items.
the Couple That Fights Together…
Combat uses both joysticks to charge and execute attacks in an action turn-based battle system. Overall, combat isn’t too difficult. The problem I had is that there isn’t much to it.
There are a couple of strategies – using either Yu or Kay to block incoming damage while the other attacks. There is timing involved, and some enemies can only be hit with certain attacks or at certain states. But since there are only two types of attacks to choose from – and no equipment or ability skill tree to mix things up – it leaves combat feeling more bare-bones than one would expect.
I know that the developers were trying to keep things simple, but since there is so much combat in the game, it ends up feeling underdeveloped.
Communication Is Key to a Successful Relationship
Besides all the mechanical gameplay side of things, the game has a lot of dialogue: loving comments – and even slightly snide ones – sprinkled here and there while exploring. They are constantly talking.
Even more elaborate conversations take place when you eat a meal or progress in the narrative. Yu and Kay talk about everything from random musings, to deeper, more personal things. The dialogue feels natural, like a window into a couple’s relationship, and I felt every dialogue between the two of them expertly develops both characters.
Whether they were discussing their future or playing a sci-fi version of strip poker, it’s all entertaining to play through. By the end of the game, I had a firm grasp on Yu and Kay’s strengths, weaknesses and fears. I could easily list their personality traits. The game’s writing is nothing short of superb in this regard.
In terms of the main broader narrative, I feel like the game’s overarching plot is not as strong. The game is really about Yu and Kay’s relationship and less about the world outside their bubble, which is totally fine, but don’t expect more than that going in. If you don’t care too much about being a bystander to this couple, there isn’t much else here to sink your teeth into.
They Make Beautiful Music Together
The game also features a fantastic synth-wave soundtrack by the artist known as Danger. It’s a nice variety of tracks that fits with the game’s, colorful sci-fi world perfectly. It’s not too heavy or too soft but fits well with the game’s deliberate pace. It features some nice, melodic somber tracks for the more narratively-trying moments.
One in particular titled “20:06 Millions of Lumsecs Away,” really captured the uncertainty of Yu and Kay’s predicament. The soundtrack adds a lot to this game’s overall sci-fi feel. It does wonders to make exploring these floating islands more enjoyable.
The game also incorporates a fantastic, colorful art style. I’ve always been a fan of games that incorporate many colors into their palettes. The nighttime sky displays an inviting deep purple hue, while afternoon skies display a muted hot pink.
It makes things more atmospheric and really helps mix up how varied the game can look depending on the time of day, making familiar-looking islets feel a bit different. I do really like the look of this game.
Space Age Love Song
I wasn’t expecting to be enraptured by the game’s narrative when Haven first began, but the more I played, the more I wanted to find out what was going to happen. The narrative isn’t necessarily complex or deep, but it’s entertaining in a drama film kind of way.
Haven can feel like a repetitious ride, but at the heart of it all, it’s a game about Yu and Kay’s relationship, their situation and the uncertainty of it all. It pulls off a story with plenty of drama but plenty of moments of levity. It’s a story about a relationship, and I think it’s one worth exploring.
Haven is available via the Nintendo Game Store, Sony PlayStation Store, Microsoft Store and Steam.
Check out the official trailer for Haven below: