Those of you that follow me will know full and well that I appreciate all things that are unique. That’s not to say that I’ll enjoy the end result, but a developer will almost always win my interest if their product is unlike anything else. Haimrik managed to achieve that interest effortlessly; an action adventure game that largely consists of utilizing interactive words to make meaningful progress. It’s also deliciously gory, which again, goes down particularly well with what I look for in any given experience. Though, is Haimrik any good?
Whilst it certainly delivers an adventure unlike any other, I cant wholeheartedly say that this blew my socks off. The game throws players into the role of Haimrik, a young scribe that’s desperately trying to make ends meet. The game takes place within a medieval town that’s full of all forms of inhabitants, including the likes of warriors, sorcerers, dragons and more. One day, Haimrik stumbles across a very peculiar book and decides to write in it with the use of his own blood, which as I am certain that you can imagine, leads to nowhere good.
Haimrik is seemingly transported into the book, a place in which words come to life, literally. Throughout the course of the story, Haimrik is expected to destabilize and destroy the Word Warriors, the evil king’s elite generals. How does a simple scribe overcome such a daunting task? Through the power of words, of course! The story isn’t a very interesting one and to some degree, that’s the largest fault with Haimrik. What’s annoying is that the game’s foundation is thoroughly distinct and could have been so much more than what it is.
Haimrik plays out using a very interactive approach. Words are represented as Haimrik’s pathway, with Haimrik himself being able to wield their powers at certain sections. These words can be activated and used throughout the fields of play to solve puzzles and defeat a range of varying enemies. For example, the first puzzle is served up as two pathways with a door at the end that gates further movement, these pathways collectively read “Haimrik had heard whispers of legends that told of a strange key, one that opened a rusty door”.
Moving Haimrik above the word “key” and holding “Y” will withdraw a key from the pathway, to which it’s then used to open the door. The same can be said for the game’s combat, in which players will typically summon weaponry (a sword for the first encounter) to take on subsequent foes, resulting in some truly grotesque effects. This concept is used throughout the entirety of the game and although it tends to slightly adjust and evolve as you proceed, it doesn’t shake things up quite enough, which is a huge shame, I must admit.
The game does have quite a solid learning curve. To begin with you’re given some fairly simple stuff to contend with, such as summoning a crossbow to shoot down guards or withdrawing a bucket and some mud to put out a fire. It’s very simple stuff and does well to feed you into the game’s habits. However, before long, the game starts demanding more concentration and perseverance. Haimrik has a good pacing to it too, though it’s altering mechanics during specific scenarios can prove to be a blessing and a curse on this front.
Some combat sections, for instance, switches the 2D view to a 2.5D view. It’s an interesting function and affords the game some visual diversity, but the controls can be awkward during these moments. I’ll extend the same judgement to its 2D combat too, being that picking up a sword and aimlessly swinging it at your opponent becomes a test of who can inflict the most damage via button mashing, rather than relying on any real skill. It’s not a huge concern by any means, but it does break player immersion on a number of occasions.
Haimrik does indeed offer up some decent encounters across standard enemies and boss enemies alike. The first boss sees you taking on a huge dragon through 2.5D combat. This specific encounter keeps you on your toes at all times due to only having two small static shields to protect yourself from the dragon’s fire-blasts and sky-to-ground raining fire attacks. It’s not that Haimrik is poorly designed, but badly structured, meaning it could have been better put together when it comes to the game’s mechanics feeding into one another.
Haimrik sports a pale storybook aesthetic, giving off a presentation that looks like it’s been pulled from a scrapbook. This sits extremely well with the splashes of red blood that will mucky up the environment frequently. The soundtrack does very little to excite, but is at the very least passable nevertheless; often changing up its tempo depending on what Haimrik is doing. It’s unfortunate then, that such a compelling ground-work is ultimately bogged down by a weak story, some poor gameplay elements and a lack of evolving functionalities.
Still, with that being said, I completely commend the developer for serving up something that stands out among its peers. Hopefully if a sequel is crafted, the developer refines all aspects of the game and builds upon its interesting concept. The game’s world hub is wasted due to the lack of consistent or meaningful activity, produced simply as a means to mainly interact with characters and slowly move the overarching plot along. It’s a nice touch, indeed, though, it does feel dull at the best of times, especially at the game’s beginning.
Haimrik’s interesting concept is ultimately held back by its weak story and some poor gameplay elements. The game is certainly distinct, that much goes without saying, but its mechanics often fail to blend together particularly well. This isn’t a bad game by any means, on the contrary, it’s actually quite a competent puzzle-adventure game when it wants to be, but it’s hard to overlook these issues when they’re frequently in your face.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.