Shops like these are important for buying some much needed supplies in between levels
Shattered Haven, like all of Arcen Games’ titles, supports co-op play; in this case, two player local with drop-in/drop-out. Throughout the single-player game, you’ve always got another person tagging along with you. In some of the levels, you may even find yourself wishing that you could switch to that other person to either lure some of the “Grays,” or to go and get that object while you’re busy doing something else. In other words, the game feels like you should be playing it with a friend.
When playing cooperatively, the levels themselves don’t change in any significant way. Yes, there is a slight increase in the number of enemies in the level and there are two of some items so that each player can participate; but the goal stays the same. What changes is the way in which you go about achieving that goal.
As mentioned before, the second player can act as a decoy to lure some of the undead away from an area to which you need access, or they can slip past to get that one piece of equipment you both need. It may not seem like much, but it can really count when you need it to. There are number of different “Grays” that you’ll face along the way and they each behave in a slightly different fashion. One, appropriately called a “Seeker,” will follow your path as you run from it. This trait is hardly noticeable until you cross a puddle of water and it suddenly stops rather than go around. The second you go back to the other side of it, it will resume following you. With a second player there, he or she can go grab a weapon and set a trap for the zombie that you lead it into perfectly. It’s nothing terribly clever, yet it’s clever enough that you and your partner feel like you are.
From a co-op perspective, that’s really what the game is all about – working with your partner to outwit the game. For any new given level, you’ll take a look at the latest situation in which you’ve been placed, figure out how you can either clear it or make it to the next screen, and then execute it. It is a solid formula. When I played the game alone, I got through about four or five levels before I started feeling like it was a chore. When I was playing with a friend, I found myself more focused on getting to the next one so we could devise a new strategy. The repetition would occasionally still manage to creep its way into the play session, but it was far less noticeable when you’ve got a friend there to keep things interesting.
Spot the correct path to the scythe
While I was glad for the company, having a second player along for the ride made me more aware of another issue with the game: being able to keep track of your character. The top-down perspective provides a great view from which you can see the whole field and plan out your strategy. From such great heights, though, it can be easy to lose where you are or where you’re headed. The playable characters are distinct enough that I didn’t mistake myself for the other one, but I did mistake my co-op partner for a “Gray” a couple of times (and vice versa). It’s not just the characters, either.
I sometimes found myself going through a maze of obstacles to go and grab something only to realize too late that the object was actually on the other side of the hedge where I was currently standing. Oh, and there were zombies behind me. You may say, “well that’s the point of a maze” and I would agree. However, the confusion in this case was due less to the intent of the object/obstacle placement, and more a result of obstacles blending together with the background to make it hard to spot what’s a path and what isn’t. When you have to start a level over again because of this issue, it’s just a silly mistake that you laugh off and do better the next time. When it happens three or four times, it becomes frustrating. I will be fair and say that on the Shattered Haven website, under System Requirements, they do say that a 1024x768 screen resolution is recommended. When playing on this resolution, it definitely helps to make certain things clearer, though it's not always enough.
There’s a lot about Shattered Haven I really like: the overall gameplay, the way co-op is integrated, the fun of clearing a level with a friend, and the narrative mysteries that leave you wondering what exactly is going on. Each piece is good and yet I can’t help but feel that perhaps they could be a bit more. The co-op experience, while fun, could do something with the players interacting with one another beyond luring zombies. There are glimpses of this in a few of the levels, such as toggling the switches to kill the “Grays,” and they serve as a welcome change of pace. Maybe a few of the levels could twist some of their set rules to change things up just a bit to ease with the repetition.
Shattered Haven is one of those games that when it’s on, it’s on all the way thanks to its clever level designs, interesting objectives, and a different way of tackling the undead menace. When those elements are lacking, though, the game only manages to walk at a pace a little faster than that of the average “Gray.”
The Co-Optimus review of Shattered Haven is based on the PC version of the game. A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
The Co-Op Experience: Team up with a friend in this environmental puzzler to outwit the "Grays" and use whatever weapons are at your disposal to eliminate them
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.