Developer : Haydee Interactive
Publisher: Haydee Interactive
Release: 27th September 2016
Why is this game marketed with a “sexy Character”? This is want I wanted to answer going into Haydee Interactive’s puzzle platformer, Haydee. What I found was a disappointing, uncompelling and highly repetitive slog of a game, with sexual content tacked on inexplicably. The use of both “old-style” and modern day mechanics fit together like a broken jigsaw puzzle, leading to a thoroughly mediocre amalgamation of third person shooting, puzzle platforming with some metroidvania thrown in.
Haydee is a simple looking game, there’s not much going on in terms of details. The world looks quite barebones actually, some sort of facility made almost entirely of white bricks with various coloured pipes to differentiate various sections, giving it a utilitarian aesthetic. Unfortunately, because everything looks sterile, it feels like some sort of knock-off Aperture Labs… Craperture Labs? Not a point against the game, just an interesting observation.
The barbones look also extend to the UI, health is displayed on the back of the characters head, an admirable attempt at making a in-universe interface, until the effect is ruined by the inventory. Still, the world overall feels cohesive, unlike the main character, but we’ll get to that later. On the surface, it may look pretty good, but once you look underneath, the cracks really start to appear.
There’s practically no story in Haydee, only a premise: escape the facility, although the only way you’d know about that is through the steam store page, the game certainly won’t tell you. And where is this supposed to be set by the way, the game claims its some sort of facility? This “facility” feels more like a nonsensical excuse to have some platforming and puzzles, rather than a functional piece of architecture. It might look utilitarian at face value, but why is there no other way to get around than climbing through vents? Why are some section left pitch black, while other are flooded? I did play this game through and through and I can honestly say that storytelling and world building are obviously not what Haydee is about. So what is it about?
Haydee is a smorgasbord of mechanics and genres, attempting to mix puzzle platforming with metroidvania, while trying to be hard enough to consider itself “old-style”. The most obvious example of this is the save system, pinched straight from the original Resident Evil by the looks of it. Save points are few and far between and require a limited item to actually use them and to its credit, it does manage to help keep the tension up. Thanks to the limits saving, every action carries great consequences, every point of damage hurts more, every missed shot is more wasteful. There is a downside to this however, oh is there a downside.
Haydee’s pride on “no handholding” can be better summarised as “figure it out yourself”, you get nothing to go on, no controls, tutorials or even item descriptions. Everything you learn you have to discover for yourself through experimenting, which is a real problem. This game wants to to find a very specific solution to most problems, deviating slightly can have harsh consequences, but you need to experiment, push the boundaries to find said solution. The problem is that pushing the boundaries of these rules often gets you punished, usually quite harshly, especially with that save system.
The core design is inherently contradictory, the experimentation you need to do to understand anything in this game is constantly being punished. This creates a ridiculous cycle where you’re constantly dying and having to replay sometime large sections thanks to the archaic save system, all because the game won’t tell you how anything works.
What’s most annoying however, is when the developers hide inescapable deathtraps that you’d have to be omnipotent to predict, making you lose sometimes massive amounts of progress (hours in my case) because that’s fun, that makes for a compelling experience, it’s not a massive waste of my time. In the end, all the save system manages to accomplish is dragging the game out and really gets on my nerves.
Combat in Haydee is lackluster, putting it lightly. You have an extremely limited arsenal to take on an extremely limited roster of foes, only two different enemy types, it gets old fast. There’s not much in terms of variety and what is there isn’t the best, nothing you do feels like it has any visual impact while everything the enemies do to you. I will admit, the combat does carry some tension to it, the sound of an unseen enemy rushing towards is genuinely stressful. The difficulty often comes down to unavoidable ambushes that again, you’d have to be a genuine fortune teller to see coming.
Since Haydee is a puzzle platformer at heart, you might think the platforming would be one of its greatest strengths, you’d be wrong. Platforming feels clumsy and slow thanks to some awkward controls. For some reason, you have to manage hoisting yourself up the slightest ledge every step of the way, conveniently giving you a grand view of your character’s rear end. While that does make the controls more deliberate, it’s not fluid at all.
That’s just for climbing up ledges, climbing down one is a truly arse-backwards task where you have to face away from the very ledge you trying to dangle off, insanely dangerous considering you don’t turn on the spot, making it very likely you’ll just fall off and die. All this seems like minor complaints, but a massive amount of content revolves around using these mechanics to explore and progress, so it quickly gets on your nerves. This is all before the camera starts getting in the way of things.
The camera is absolutely atrocious, it doesn’t show you what you need to see, instead being more concerned with giving you the best view of the character’s backside, rather than showing you anything of worth. Nowhere is this more prevalent when trying to make precise jumps, you can’t keep your own feet and the destination in frame at the same time, making these perilous jumps guesswork, I thought this game was supposed to be about skill.
Remember the archaic save system that sends you back through hours of the game thanks to the slightest mistake causing death. Relying on chance to succeed because you can’t see what the hell you’re doing is ridiculous, an obvious ways your deceived into believing this game has an actual, fair challenge. This is just bad design, not a fair challenge.
So if the platforming isn’t so great and the combat is basic, what does this game have going for it? Well the puzzles could well be the only saving grace Haydee has and even then, they’re quite hit and miss. Haydee is at its best when tasking you with using the section specific challenges to create some genuinely interesting puzzles, especially when it introduces new items to shake thing up. An example of this is a section where you have to manipulate the limited amount of electricity to power various levels, these sections offer something to spice up the otherwise repetitive game.
These aren’t the only puzzles however, as many involve just going back and forth through the same old corridors to retrieve a single item, before making the long trek back to use it. This is the real danger of a metroidvania, making you constantly run back and forth through large sections of the map again and again, becoming more frustrating each time I saw the same rooms. Progression was a positive, however it only served to alleviate the frustration, rather than actually feel rewarding. While Haydee does try to catch you off guard with enemies spawned into previously cleared rooms, there still are only two enemies. It’s the sheer amount of repetition, combined with losing massive amounts of progress that makes this game a miserable, unfulfilling experience.
Alright, lets look at this “sexy character”, lets see what all the fuss is about. Here’s my biggest problem with Haydee Interactive’s titular character: there isn’t one. Haydee is a faceless, emotionless character model whose entire existence is summed up only by the store page because again, the game tells you nothing. Compared to the sanitised environments designed to look utilitarian, Haydee herself seems completely out of place, Unless of course this facility is secretly trying to be sexy, it would explain the otherwise inexplicable nude images on some items… Faperture Labs? Yeah, that’ll do.
I don’t have a problem with sexual content in games, it has its place and, like anything else, can be used to great effect, especially when it fits into the context created within a game. Haydee Interactive hasn’t done that, what they’ve done is imply that the “sexy character” is an integral part of the experience when it most certainly isn’t. It’s completely irrelevant to the rest of the game, swapping the character model with almost anything else would change practically nothing. The novelty of Haydee’s physique doesn’t last long either, at least in my experience, so all that effort is for nought. This all begs the question: what is with the T ‘n’ A?
The purpose behind all the sexual content is probably this game’s hardest puzzle, no matter how you see it, it comes off as a pointless detriment to the game. Its clearly not an attempt at a strong and meaningful character because again, there is no bloody character. Perhaps the developers just wanted a little T ‘n’ A, because you know, why not? It clashes with the otherwise sterile environment, irrelavant to the gameplay save the camera’s concerning obsession and that’s why.
The only other possible explanation I can think of is a cynical attempt to manipulate a potential a customer base on sex appeal, but they’re appealing to one specific demographic, there are currently no alternate costumes or player models, so it can’t be for that, unless the developers are being purposefully exclusive or just plain incompetent. I really can’t figure out why why it’s mentioned in the opening pitch, like the game hinges on its existence. Maybe it’s just to make the game notable in some way, which would be a real shame if the developers thought it had to be this way.
At the end of the day, T ‘n’ Aydee set in Fapeture Labs is a mediocre, drawn out ordeal. The failed combination of old and new mechanics show that you can’t just toss in a bunch of mechanics from different developmental eras and expect it to work. I didn’t like this game, I didn’t like how it tried to drag itself out in the cheapest ways, I didn’t like how there’s a bunch of sex appeal for no reason and I especially hated the camera’s attempt to blind me of anything but said sex appeal. Playing through haydee wasn’t a compelling experience and in the end, I still don’t have an answer to my original question. After having to consult the store page over and over again for anything the game wouldn’t tell me, I found that if it did hit one nail on the head, it was that Haydee is full of “pain and depression”.