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Connection Haunted

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: No Gravity Games
Release Date: Sept. 3, 2020

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Switch Review - 'Connection Haunted'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 29, 2021 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Connection Haunted is a surreal story-driven psychological horror stylized for a nostalgic first-person shooter.

Horror games need a few things to make them work. While sometimes optional, a good narrative can go a long way toward meaningful scares. After all, there needs to be something that's worth getting frightened over. Most of all, the game needs to scare you or at least leave you with a sense of unease. Horror fans on the Nintendo Switch will be disappointed to learn that Connection Haunted does none of those things.

Connection Haunted doesn't start with a title screen or an explanation of the premise but with a server select menu and the odd decision to bind the X button as the way to jump in. Once you get past the frozen loading screen, which might give you the impression that the game has crashed, you end up in a sewer control room or the middle of a dark forest, depending on the selected server. You're told that you have 15 light flares at your disposal, but you don't have a counter to see how many you have left once you use one. You can pick up a revolver with infinite ammo, but it needs to be manually reloaded after six shots are taken. From there, you're completely alone on the game server, and you're free to wander around the level to see the layout with nothing to bother you. The only hint about what you're supposed to do is in the counter at the top, which tells you to grab three flags and return them to your base to win the match.


The minute you pick up a flag is when the game finally gets active. It starts with a few glimpses of shadows or figures. Groaning intensifies along with the appearance of shadowy figures with visibly sharp teeth. You also start to see text chat appear, and this is when you get an indication from a mysterious player that something isn't right. It's also where you can determine which path you want to go down to solve this.

The idea of you entering a haunted abandoned game server seems perfect for those who are into the creepypasta stuff on the internet. From this point on, every element needed to make the experience work causes it to fall apart instead. The easiest one to point out is the game's lack of scares. The blips on the screen that are supposed to make you freak out don't appear often enough, and their appearance is so quick that they fail to register with the player. The shadowy tooth apparitions that you see are even less scary, since they appear far away and fail to move. Their presence makes you move around slowly, but since all of them can be dispatched with one shot from the revolver, they're not menacing, no matter how often they moan. Even if they touch you, you'll get booted back to the main server menu without a proper death sequence, so they're more of a punishment for careless movement rather than a threat.

The story presentation is so vague that it feels pointless. However, the only way to properly explain it is to spoil some of the endings.


SPOILER ALERT

For example, if you help the mysterious player two by following their directions, you'll get booted back to the server menu screen. You don't get an explanation about what's going on, there's no explanation about who the shadowy apparitions are, and there's no aftermath to your actions. Ignore player two and play normally by delivering all of the flags, and you'll get called an idiot by the mystery player, see a red screen full of gibberish, see an outline of a person for a half-second, and get booted back to the server menu screen.

END SPOILER ALERT

Without a proper explanation about what the anomalies are or why anything is important, you'll end up with questions that make the whole affair seem silly. If something is wrong with the game, why would anyone care if no one is playing it? If you're granted ultimate power, why would you want it if no one else is playing it? Why would anyone care about a dead game? You can see that Connection Haunted is trying to go for something meta, but with no backstory or explanations or stakes, the idea that something buggy is happening in a dead game feels rather dumb.

Topping off all of this is a presentation that is significantly below par for the system. The biggest issue with the graphics is that everything is too dark. You have flares, which somewhat help out, but since they're so limited, you'll mostly fumble around in a low-light situation, especially if you're playing in handheld mode. Get the flares out or play the game in docked mode with the TV brightness cranked up treats you to dull-looking environments with low-resolution textures and a lack of anti-aliasing that makes your gun's edges more jagged than in a late-era PSOne game.


Worse yet is the completely unstable frame rate, so getting the game to stay at 30fps, let alone 60fps, seems like a miracle or a lack of optimization when we've seen more graphically intensive shooters on the system do better. The particle effects are laughable, such as seeing a bullet hit an object and produce a flurry of streamers instead of sparks. Sound is almost nonexistent, since there's no music. The audio effects lack any real volume, and the only voices you'll hear are moans that do their best to sound like the least-threatening monsters.

Even at its relatively cheap $5 price tag, it is difficult to recommend Connection Haunted. The premise could be interesting, but its vague nature means that there's no impetus to pursue the game's endings even though they're short enough to conquer in an afternoon. It is supposed to mimic first-person shooters from the early days of online play, but it looks decidedly worse than most of them, and the performance is passable at best. Worst of all, with no scares of any sort or action or intrigue, the game is utterly boring. Unless you're a collector and absolutely need every single Switch game, it's a hard pass on Connection Haunted.

Score: 2.5/10



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