Shattered Haven looks like an RPG, with its top-down view and crude spritework. Its camera is pulled back to RTS distances, however, and it scrolls from screen to screen like an early Zelda game. It nabs Zelda’s structure, too, with a series of overworld environments linking together self-enclosed gauntlets. Eventually, you’ll figure out the hybrid that Arcen Games has made: this is an action-puzzle game with the lightest dusting of strategy. It’s an unusual blend.
It’s magnificently creepy, too, its simplistic visuals and haunting, piano-led soundtrack crudely depicting yet another monster invested, post-apocalyptic world. There’s something evocative if not particularly original about this one, however.
Perhaps it’s the story, with its focus on familial ties rather than heroic adventure. Perhaps it’s that camera – pulled so far back you can’t help but sympathise with the characters isolated in this alien, terrifying Earth. Or perhaps you’re merely sympathising with its heroes on account of their uninspired tasks and chores.
A standard Shattered Haven level drops you either with your inventory or without it in a small, self-contained dungeon, populated with Greys (zombies). Kill the Greys and you can escape. Kill all the Greys in all the dungeons and you can move into the next part of the overworld. These levels are basic environmental puzzles, tasking you with, say, finding the hammer in one house that lets you mend the bridge that lets you reach the weapon that lets you kill the greys. There’s a workmanlike simplicity to the core of Arcen’s game, one that lets down the powerful atmosphere suffusing it.