Well, this is a first. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen or used the words “environmental”, “puzzle”, and “zombies” all in the same sentence. “Shattered Haven” breaks the mold however and features all of these things, much to my surprise. When zombies are involved (“grays” in this case), I usually find myself wielding a shotgun or barricading windows and doors. In this game however, you’ll be making use of tools, traps, and the environment to dispatch the grays in the most efficient manner possible. Before we get started, I’d like to thank Erik Johnson from Arcen Games for providing me with a free review copy.
The main menu gives the player a fair amount of options. One thing worth noting immediately is the availability of local co-op, either with two keyboards, two gamepads, or a combination thereof. Keybinds can be customized in either case as well. There is no internet or LAN multiplayer support, from what I can tell. In terms of other options, you’ll be able to set screen resolution, toggle fullscreen, adjust audio, enable or disable vsync, and a number of other things. The options menu doesn’t cover advanced things like motion blur and the like, but in this case, they’re not really needed.
When you’re ready to play, you’ll be asked to name your save file, select a difficulty, and adjust cooperative options. The campaign starts you out by telling the story of Darrell (father) and Mary (mother) Williams and how they have been surviving the apocalypse with their daughter, Leia. They were doing well for themselves in fending off the grays until they took in a young boy named Pierce, whose mother was recently killed. The tutorial starts you out as Pierce and Leia, taking you through the motions and getting you used to the interface and gameplay mechanics.
The interface itself is easy to understand as everything you’ll need is right along the bottom of the screen. There’s a menu for inventory, goals, and game settings along with inventory and health panels for both party members. Should you be playing solo, the second character will follow you around automatically. It’s important to pay attention to the dialogue, as sometimes the goals in the tutorial didn’t show up under the goals menu. In my haste I missed something important and wandered around for a bit until I stumbled onto the next part. A handy encyclopedia of sorts is available should you need to refresh your memory on anything you’ve discovered thus far in the game.
After a short period of time, the game will introduce you to tools. You’ll pick up things like a hammer, scythe, shovel, and etc. that allow you to interact with objects in the environment. Shovels can fill pits and likewise, create them, just to name an example. Once you get used to inventory management, which is as simple as opening the inventory screen, hovering over the item you want hotkeyed, and pressing a keystroke (A,S,D, or F by default), you’ll be shown how to handle weapons and heal yourself with red gems.
Weapons function and are equipped the same way as tools, but handle differently depending on the weapon in question. Iron tacks (grays are vulnerable to iron) can be laid down on the ground and will damage / kill a gray as they walk over it. A one-tined pitchfork can be thrown and unlike the tacks, can be picked up again if you miss. Some items, like iron sickles, function as tools and weapons, though you’ll have to keep an eye on their durability and use them wisely. Grays are vulnerable to fire, water, and iron, so not all weapons will be effective in killing them. Weapons that don’t have these properties will stun grays for a short time.
In terms of gameplay itself, you’ll be guiding your character around levels in an attempt to dispatch all of the grays present. You’re given a limited number of tools or weapons to use in that level, and that’s where the puzzle part comes into play. You’ll need to quickly assess the situation, figure out what items are where, and reason out the best way to use them before you get swarmed. Imagine that you’re a special ops soldier without hand-to-hand combat training and following that mindset, you’ll need to kill off the grays systematically in a way that will ensure your survival. On occasion, the game will throw unique objectives at you, but for the most part you’ll be a mean, lean, gray killing machine.
Other features include a level editor, a story arc that branches off based on your choices, and bonus objectives. As a whole, there are nine separate areas (called overworlds) that contain a number of levels in them. It’s important to note that not all of these areas will be accessible depending on the way the story plays out. There’s also a new game plus mode, which skips the initial tutorials and opens up one of those nine overworld areas that wasn’t previously available. I’m personally glad to see the story arc and new game plus features as they encourage another playthru or two. The levels themselves come in different varieties…one minute you’ll be deep in snow while trekking along volcanic rock paths the next. You won’t get bored with the scenery.
Overall, “Shattered Haven” is a solid action / puzzle game that will certainly get the adrenaline pumping. Some might be turned off by the graphics, but as a retro-gamer, I grew up with that kind of thing so I didn’t mind them as much. The game will give you access to over a dozen tools and weapons across an estimated one hundred levels, so there’s plenty of content there to keep you busy for a while. The game is priced at $9.99, though is on sale for $7.49 until March 29th, 2013. If you don’t mind the simplified graphics and enjoy top-down, real-time puzzle games, then it’s worth giving “Shattered Haven” a go.
Final Verdict: 8/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Shattered Haven” by visiting the following websites:
You can view video play sessions here: