The Haunt

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Genre:  Puzzle Adventure
Release date: August 2012
Platform:  iOS, Android

Sophisticated adventure games for the mature adult are hard to find.  Most games have been “dumbed down” to the high school level or younger.  Imagine my delight when I discovered a truly advanced adventure game which I had never heard of.  Imagine my surprise when I found out it was for smart phones and tablets only.

The Haunt is a classic point-and-click adventure game with some hidden object elements blended in.  It was designed solely for smart phones and touch tablets so the interface is optimized for tapping rather than clicking.

Game play is straightforward – just tap anyplace on the screen which looks interesting.  If you tap an object which can be added to your inventory, it will be.  If you tap on a door you will either enter it or be told that it is locked.  To use an inventory item, simply highlight it and as long as the inventory is open any tap on the screen will be an attempt to use that item there.  Tapping on a puzzle will bring that puzzle up to work on.  Most tapping will yield a generic message, but occasionally you will find something which needs to be noted.

There is no save-game option, but you won't need it.  There is no running clock and you can't get killed or stuck.  The game saves your position whenever you quit, so the only option you have is to continue or start a new game.

The game is predominantly exploration and puzzle solving.  And both are significant.

The environment is large.  You must explore an old two story farm house (plus attic and cellar) as well as the surrounding buildings.  But don't expect to go just anywhere you please.  There are plenty of locked doors and blocked paths.

The graphics are very good.  You can see from the screen shots that most locations are photographs of real places.  Most objects appear to be hand drawn, but are real enough to fit right in.

But it is the puzzles which make this game shine.  There are plenty of inventory puzzles, perhaps one for half of the locations in the game.  There are plenty of logic puzzles, again perhaps one for half of the locations.  And they are all wonderfully layered.  You might have to find the Four Mystical Hedgehogs to place in the Yogurt Fountain just to activate its logical puzzle which, when solved, yields the Fabulous Flamingo which is used elsewhere (I hope that didn't ruin anything for anybody).

The inventory puzzles are reasonable – you don't need a piece of cheese to cut the rope, the knife works as expected.  The logical puzzles are medium to hard in difficulty.  They will be daunting to the novice adventure gamer, but they will give the advanced player something to sink their teeth into.  And don't let that scare you.  There is a built in hint system and you can skip any puzzle which is no longer any fun.

There are no timed puzzles, but there are some sliders, which is to say that there is one puzzle with four wonderful 6x4 layered sliders.  Now, don't just go and throw up your hands and say, “Forget it. I'm skipping that one.”  Sliders are one of the easiest logic puzzles to solve once you know the method.  I have included the quick solution to any slider puzzle at the end of this review.

I said that the exploration was also significant.  This isn't your average smart phone app where you can just blast and grind your way through.  Puzzles and clues are scattered everywhere.  You will need to map and take notes just like a real adventure game.

I mentioned that there was a hidden object element to the game.  One of the clues which you will need to win the game is pictured on a large 11x9 jigsaw puzzle.  Just about every location in the game contains two to six pieces hidden as slightly ghosted outlines (you might see a couple in the screen shots).  This puzzle can be worked on at any time in the game.

There are also twenty-five moths to find.  Each moth can be used to buy a hint.  Should you get stuck, just tap the moth icon and you will be told what hints are available for purchase.  I personally found these to be sufficient although I suspect that a novice player might need the help of a walk through.

Finally, there are gold coins to find.  These aren't needed to win the game, but there is a place where you can do something fun with them.

If The Haunt has any weak points, they are with the story line and the background music.  There is a background story to the game, but it is given up front in a diary which you find.  There is no further exposition during the game.  The story is, however, internally consistent and explains not only what must be done, but also why there are all these puzzles scattered about.  The background music is merely a progression of four to six chords.  While they may be spooky at first, any atmosphere is soon lost with the constant repetition.  I turned the music off in the settings and didn't fell that I had lost anything.

In summary, The Haunt is a classic adventure game developed by a small indie group (there are only three names in the credits) which dares to be difficult enough to challenge the seasoned adventurer.  And it is available on both iOS and Android for only $2.  I give it an A-.



How to Solve Any Slider Puzzle.

  1. The strategy is to solve only one row or column at a time without worrying about the rest of the puzzle.
  2. Decide whether you with to work by rows or by columns.  For this example, let us choose rows.
  3. Begin with the row furthest away from the remaining hole (there will always be a hole left over at the end).  In this example, let us assume that the hole is in the bottom right hand corner (very common).  So we would start with the top row.
  4. Solve the first row.  Don't try to save any partial work below.  Just line the squares up and slide them in like a train or snake.  Once completed, glue this row down and never touch it again.
  5. Repeat for the second row.  Again, don't touch the first row which you just solved.
  6. Continue until you have only two rows remaining.
  7. Now solve the two square column furthest from the hole.  In this example, that would be the column to the left.
  8. Continue with columns and the puzzle will be solved.

Depending on how large the puzzle is, this can require a lot of busywork.  But it will work every time.

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