Haiku, The Robot

Haiku, The Robot is a competent metroidvania but doesn't live up to the promise it demonstrates in its early game.

Posted by Nate on 30 January 2023 at 9:40PM

I love getting engrossed in a good metroidvania. I was a bit late to Haiku, the Robot, though it has been on my radar since its release. It got off to a promising start, immediately reminiscent of both Hollow Knight in its structure, and Rain World in its setting and audio. However, the more I played of it, the more routine the game became.

There's something about the ever-increasing power and movement you acquire during a metroidvania that I find particularly enjoyable. I like thinking about what kind of powers will become available, and how you'll navigate past obstacles that restrict your exploration as you take your first steps in to this world. Haiku, The Robot is no different in this regard, and some of the abilities you pick up along the way change how you play the game significantly, specifically the traversal of the world. However, it's all set against a backdrop that I struggled to engage with.

Enemies frequently explode in Haiku, The Robot
Enemies frequently explode in Haiku, The Robot

Haiku, The Robot is a competent and well-made game. If you've played a few metroidvanias before, it will be instantly familiar, and while I did like it, it was missing what makes the likes of Hollow Knight, Astalon, Axiom Verge, and the Ori games special. It all felt a bit by-the-numbers. You've got your standard biomes, identifiable by focusing on a colour theme. The water area is blue, the furnace is red, and such. Other than that, they're not particularly distinguishable. The art is nice throughout, and there are some rooms with really nice designs. I just wish there was more of that.

The narrative is threadbare. A virus has spread around the bunker infecting robots and making them hostile. You are created, then told to go stop this. The silent protagonist exists solely as a tool for other robots that want a job done. While that's technically fine, I didn't feel anything for Haiku. They weren't kind, or brave, or empathetic, or angry, or anything. They were just there. There are plenty of characters to meet along the way, but none of them were memorable.

Haiku can increase the range of their attack. Helpful against evil washing machines!
Haiku can increase the range of their attack. Helpful against evil washing machines!

There are a considerable number of challenging enemies, at least for the first half of the game. Their style of attack is fairly varied, keeping you on your toes in encounters. You can heal yourself any time at the expense of some scrap, also the currency in this world and you can install a number of chips found in the world to increase power or abilities.

The powers you gain ultimately allow you to traverse throughout the world in a quick and fun manner. However, by the time you got them all, with the exception of a few small areas, it felt that these abilities were there just to make backtracking through the world easier. There aren't any major areas designed around these abilities. It feels like a missed opportunity.

There's an interesting trade-off in using scrap for either healing or purchases
There's an interesting trade-off in using scrap for either healing or purchases

I had a rough start in this game. My first hour and a half of playtime included one hour of trying to find where I needed to go. Every part of the map I hadn't already been to appeared to be blocked by an obstacle I couldn't yet get past. The map is hidden until you destroy a disruptor in that area. I don't mind this system as such, but it does make navigation potentially problematic when your options are limited. Some players will have the same issue as I did at this part of the game, whereas, I'm sure, others would find the correct path immediately and not suffer the slow start to the game I did.

This review is focusing more on the negatives than the good parts of the game, but that's more to do with my disappointment since completing it. This was a game that I was really looking forward to playing at some point, yet it's one I'll forget about in the coming months. There could have been something special here, but it just never got going.

The good

  • The full compliment of abilities make traversal a lot of fun
  • Tight controls
  • Fun boss fights

The bad

  • Uninteresting characters and narrative
  • Haiku is largely anonymous
  • Not enough variety in the world