Re-evaluating the value of Xbox game pass: A hauntii experience

But its atmosphere does represent a different type of weird, even for the afterlife.
Hauntii is no different. But its atmosphere does represent a different type of weird, even for the afterlife.
Hauntii is no different. But its atmosphere does represent a different type of weird, even for the afterlife.

CHENNAI: It has become commonplace in videogames to feature the afterlife. It is no big secret why this works so well. The afterlife is unknown, and an easy out from having to explain weird things. Whether it is dungeon crawling through the different rungs of hell (Hades), fighting beasts and mysteriously respawning (Doom), or a casual management simulator as you meander through a foggy river on a boat (Spiritfarer). I could give you so many more examples. But reader, I am sure you have encountered a few of these games yourself. Hauntii is no different. But its atmosphere does represent a different type of weird, even for the afterlife.

I play as a new ghost in Hauntii. Having just entered the afterlife, this ghost is inexperienced in the ways of the Eternity, and is afraid to venture the world alone. However, exploration is non-optional — we must safely traverse through the expanse to learn more about the life we lived, and eventually ascend to a higher plane. We move ahead, with the help of two powers: “haunting” or possessing objects, and shooting balls of spectral energy. This expansive map of the game is hand-crafted — with most of the environment and monsters appearing distinctly hand-drawn. In the beginning, everything is mostly monochromatic, alternating between absolute darkness and paths of light.

We soon understood that following the light is good, spending too much time in the darkness is bad. Giant trees in our path can be haunted, and they can be shaken to drop balls of light, opening up new pathways to different areas on the map. As you can imagine, navigating through these creeping areas of darkness gets more complicated as the game progresses.

It doesn’t mean that the challenge ends with lighting up the pathways, as even well-lit corridors are scattered with monsters. Some of them are weak, and will collapse when a couple of well-placed spectral energy shots hit them. Others are elusive. We might look around for some “hauntable” allies, who will have the necessary powers to shoot down the stronger enemies.

Once we get into the flow of things, the cracks begin to show. Progress in the game was super slow. Ascending to a different part of the map for instance, is gated, unless you hold the mandatory number of “stars.” Stars are one of the multiple in-game currencies that are hidden in various corners of the map. Collecting them is a repetitive process and can get annoying, because I end up spending hours haunting every tree, and shooting down every monster, in the hope of getting more stars.

I also found the story a bit too simple. I capture slivers of what the life of the ghost looked like every time I finish a section of the map. It felt like too little for the effort it took to get it. The puzzles didn’t feel super smart either.

All this meant was that I didn’t end up finishing the game. But this week, I decided to actively review the reasons why I stopped playing the game — and it isn’t all Hauntii’s fault. What I have often failed to acknowledge is that the “shelved game” phenomenon is often a result of having acquired a title at no cost through the Xbox game pass. I give up too soon. I condemn it to the status of “boring” without giving it a second chance. And this is why I will be giving up my game pass this month.

I want you all to actively take stock of this — how many games have you tried through the game pass? How many of these have you given up on? Is this all worth it? The answer is simpler than you think. Waiting the entire year to play a AAA title that comes out for free on the game pass is not a reason enough to pay for it month after month. I realised that I have spent over Rs 20,000 on the game pass in the last four years, to ultimately give in and purchase the only three games I ever play all that much on this service: Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, and funnily enough, Solitaire. If Hauntii sounds interesting to you, buy it on Steam, or for the Switch or PlayStation. Maybe then, you might give it the second chance that it deserves.

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