Very few games attempt to tell stories about established romantic relationships, but it's this angle that sets Haven apart. It's easily one of the more intriguing indie titles that we've played in some time, telling the tale of two lovers who have essentially ran away from home together. The sci-fi setting sees them stranded on an abandoned planet known as Source, making use of its natural resources in order to survive, and, ideally, build some kind of future for themselves.
Kay and Yu — boy and girl, both 20-something — are endearing characters. Initially, their relationship can come across as saccharine sweet — mostly because of some supremely cheesy dialogue — but as you get to know the couple, it's hard not to care about their situation. There's a definite chemistry between the two protagonists, bolstered by great voice acting and some sharp writing.
Kay and Yu aren't the deepest or most defined of characters, but there is a believability to their relationship. They flirt, they joke, they argue, they talk at length about all kinds of things. They also can't keep their hands off one another, with the game presenting a number of surprisingly raunchy scenarios throughout its 12 hour runtime. Again, it's the kind of romance that usually goes unexplored in video games, and it's really refreshing to see such a couple take centre stage here.
Just to be clear, there isn't any overtly sexual content in Haven — the physical side of Kay and Yu's relationship is often suggested rather than shown — but things still get pretty steamy from time to time. As they would, we suppose, if you were stuck on an alien planet with no one but the love of your life to keep you company.
Anyway, Haven adopts the style of a visual novel to tell its story. Nicely drawn character art covers most of the screen during conversations, and there's a lot of text to get through overall. We did notice a number of typos during our playthrough, but it's nothing that's going to hamper the experience — especially since everything is fully voiced.
Given that the game takes place on an uninhabited hunk of rock, it's impressive that Kay and Yu are able to hold your attention without the help of any secondary characters. There's a peace and quiet to Haven that's both relaxing and a little bit unsettling.
This atmosphere is most noticeable when you're gliding across the surface of Source. Traversal is at the core of Haven, and getting around is mostly smooth and satisfying. Equipped with hover boots, you weave your way through interconnected zones, which are separated by quick load screens on PS5. The wider, more open areas of the game are the most fun to explore, giving you plenty of room to zip around at your leisure.
Not every location is so enjoyable, though. Simply put, some environments are a pain to navigate. Steep cliffs and deep chasms demand that you find a way around, which usually results in tedious wandering as you try to locate the one very specific pathway that'll get you to your goal. The fact that there's no dedicated minimap doesn't help, either. The map that you do eventually unlock shows each zone and how they're pieced together, but it doesn't tell you where particular points of interest are. As such, you're left to try and remember where everything is, guided only by the vague notes that Kay and Yu have scribbled down on their navigation software.
Haven also has some very light survival mechanics. You'll discover various foods as you explore Source, which can then be used as cooking ingredients. You can prepare meals either back at the couple's cosy spaceship or out in the field at equally cosy camping spots. Eating prevents Kay and Yu from complaining about their empty stomachs for at least a few minutes, while also making the couple more efficient in combat.
Speaking of which, combat in Haven is a strange beast. At first glance it looks turn based, but it's more to do with rhythm. You control both Kay and Yu, attacking and defending as the situation demands. You need to keep track of your opponent's actions and react accordingly, with each command mapped to its own face button. It's actually quite tricky to get to grips with, but it's rewarding to watch the couple combine their powers when the system finally clicks.
Fights have a decent amount of depth. Later on, you'll encounter enemies that require careful timing and slightly more complex strategies to overcome. That said, if you do just want to focus on the story, there are a handful of welcome accessibility options that lower the risk of engaging the planet's disgruntled wildlife. All in all, it's a solid if unspectacular combat system that helps sell the premise of Kay and Yu being so close.
Haven's gameplay has its ups and downs, then, but it's the soundtrack that really ties the whole game together. Crafted by French electronic musician Danger, it's an intricate, excellent soundtrack packed with catchy beats and ethereal melodies. Brilliant from start to finish.
It's also worth mentioning that Haven supports local co-op. A second player can jump in at any time and take control of either Kay or Yu in combat and in other activities. Perfect for a night in with your significant other, but probably not suitable for friends or family given the game's romantic nature. Talk about awkward.
There are flaws in Haven's gameplay, but its endearing protagonists, unique atmosphere, and superb soundtrack make it an interesting and engaging journey to an alien planet. Its portrayal of an adult relationship is something to be admired, and it's hard not to care about the plight of Kay and Yu by the end of what is ultimately quite a touching love story.