HAAK | PAX Online 2020 Preview

The Metroidvania genre is continuing to grow as a popular category of games for developers of all sizes, so standing out amongst your peers can be one of the biggest hurdles. Having a compelling story, engaging combat and platforming, and an appealing art style are just a few of the ways that Blingame and Lightning Games are trying to set themselves apart with HAAK.

Deep in the belly of the apocalypse, on the trail of uncovering the truth, Haak must overcome obstacles and explore the unknown in order to escape his current circumstances. On your quest to the southern region of Sanhe, Haak has a chance encounter with someone who can help lead him out of the perils of the ruins he’s stranded in and towards hope and a chance at survival. The preview of Haak that I had a chance to play during PAX Online 2020, was enough to get a real understanding of how the mechanics of combat and traversal operate and how interesting the story seems to be.

As expected with the Metroidvania influence, you’ll be traveling throughout areas looking for clues and new upgrades while backtracking at points through gorgeously animated pixelated worlds reminiscent of games from the 16bit era. The platforming felt tight and responsive, with deeper elements of movement slowly being opened through items and abilities such as the Energy Hook that will not only aid you in battle but allow you to grapple platforming objects and solve certain puzzles. Both the combat and traversal could be challenging at times, not due to wonky controls but intentionally designed areas or enemy encounters. If you were just trying to button mash your way through certain boss fights without taking the time to learn and understand enemy patterns you may find yourself frustratingly restarting a section again.

While the narrative seems to have a compelling enough start there’s also the option to complete side quests and search for deeper lore and backstory for Haak and the world around him. Hopefully, the main story will feel whole and not rely upon achieving one hundred percent completion in order to have a satisfying resolve in the end. Though, the few hours I was able to play in early access lay the promising framework for an interesting tale.

Although, even with a narrative eager to sink its hook into you, the most satisfying and noteworthy part of the experience so far was the combat and puzzle platforming. Withstanding waves of enemies in certain areas and vanquishing tougher opponents felt like a true triumph when executing actions precisely. Dashing, slashing, and charging up timed hits were not always easy to pull off without getting hit by enemies, but when I was able to maneuver on point it was an intense dance of pixels that culminated in a euphoric gasp of accomplishment. I hope the upgrades and unlocks dive deeper than what was available in early access, but even if they don’t, the Energy Hook mechanics showed a variety of ways that the combat, traversal, and puzzle solving could continue to evolve and elate. HAAK is shaping up to be a Metroidvania that should be on your radar.

HAAK is available now on Steam Early Access. We previewed HAAK on Steam with a code provided by the developer.

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