Title :Haven: Call of the King
Platforms :Sony PlayStation 2
Publisher :Midway
ESRB Rating :Teen
Game Rating :3.7
Review by :Ken Gagne

Many games try to be many things. Few games have claimed to be more, and failed at so much, as Haven: Call of the King, a PlayStation 2 game from Midway. 

Haven is the titular name of the main character, a young lad on a foreign planet enslaved to an evil dictator named Vetch. This conqueror controls the antidote to the poison with which he has infected his servants. To continue his rule unthreatened, he must eliminate Haven, who has begun having prophetic dreams of an ancient king who will return to his people in their time of need. 

Midway touts Haven's "Freeformer" gameplay, which supposedly allows Haven to seamlessly transition from one genre of gameplay to another. One moment, Haven may be jumping from platform to platform; next, he'll be firing a cannon at enemy ships. After flying his jet pack to extinguish a towering inferno, he may hop into a speedboat to race across the lake. 

Though these transitions are seamless, they are also pointless. Even Super Mario Sunshine had Nintendo's plumber firing rockets from a monorail, but it made no claims to be anything other than an excellent platformer. 

If Haven tried harder, it might be a decent platformer, too. There are some tense moments when the hero must leap from toppling pillar to pillar, and classic sequences of avoiding falling boulders and the like. But Haven is bogged down by too much lackluster gameplay. Each level comes without story or direction, leaving the player to pause the game and consult a checklist of activities that need to be accomplished. No matter the context, such unadorned shopping lists are still unexciting. Why is Haven going through these motions, anyway? In the first level, he wants to go to the mines to find his friend. So why is he assaulting enemy guards with his yo-yo and smashing his speedboat into power generators? Is he making a trip, or inciting a riot? I would accept either rhyme or reason for these actions; sadly, I find neither. 

Even the standard platforming sequences have their flaws. A central focus for Haven are pots: red pots, green pots, hint pots, smoke pots. Every room, platform, and corner has a pot, many of which are essential to Haven's progress. Players must learn to distinguish the various types, which ones can and can't be broken, which are helpful and which aren't. Otherwise they'll enjoy more than a few fireballs in the face, or overlook necessary hidden items. 

Though the graphics are from the imagination of illustrator Rodney Mattews, they are no more attractive than any other platform game. The camera angle keeps a tight view on the action, and the world itself is colorful, but the graphics comprise a immature overall look. The characters have the wide eyes of children, and the voice actors would be more at home in a Saturday morning cartoon. 

I'm sorry, Haven, but whatever you're trying to do here, it isn't going to work. Don't try to be something you're not, and don't claim typicality to be an innovation. It's your only salvation.

This article is copyright (c) 2002, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 16-Dec-02