Late to the Game: Haiku, the Robot

Welcome to the article series, Late to the Game! This is a space for us to talk about the latest games we’ve been playing, with the intention that we can write about anything. It can be something new. It can be something really old. It can be something we’ve played a million times (looks at Ben).

This edition of Late to the Game will be a look at Haiku, the Robot!

There are a lot of Metroidvania games out there nowadays and I’m not complaining. As someone who never really played either of the genre’s namesakes back in the day, it’s quickly become one of my genre mainstays of the last half decade or so. Shadow Complex was the game that helped me GET the format, Headlander, Guacamelee and Hollow Knight helped me LOVE the genre, and now I’m eagerly waiting every Nintendo Direct for the next contender for the new Metroidvania game I’m going to play this coming year. 

Haiku, the Robot has been on that radar for a bit now.

Released on Steam in April of this year, the buzz around the game got my attention and I was greatly anticipating its future release on a platform I own. Well that day has come and I was not disappointed. Haiku, the Robot was released on the Nintendo Switch on September 9th (I was provided a digital copy of the game for Switch from developer Mister Morris Games for review) and I’ve spent the last few days diving into the world of Arcadia.

While Haiku, the Robot wears its influences on its robotic arm, you immediately feel its sense of originality as well. The gorgeous pixel art is “Game Boy-inspired”, but it has a speed, crispness and artistic style that feels old school and modern all wrapped in one. But in the shoes of Haiku, our titular hero, you begin exploring the depths of this underground bunker and are attacked by corrupt machines whose spare parts are used as both a form of currency and your repair resource as you venture across the areas of Arcadia. 

This cost/benefit system of currency is a great wrinkle to how you approach your adventure, as new chips can be purchased to add abilities and skills that will aid you along the way. Chips aren’t cheap, but I never felt like I didn’t have enough spare parts to buy them when needed, which speaks to one of the many smart design elements of the gameplay. You’ll find the majority of the chips in the game spread throughout Arcadia, with a decent balance of cleverly hidden ones vs challenging platforming trials to reach some of the more difficult to reach ones. There are a few other items spread across the game as well (Power Cells are a great resource for some extra spare parts & Capsule Fragments expand your health bar), and you always feel like you are making Haiku a little stronger for the journey ahead with the collectibles you come across at an appropriate clip.

The only bit of imbalance I felt while playing through the game was the back half almost packs too many of the character improvements too close together, but that also might have been my own fault all the same due to some poor navigation skills. That said, the level design is really opened up once you unlock all of Haiku’s abilities, as you will quickly feel like you are a master of traversing across Arcadia. The world itself is beautifully crafted for you to be able to blaze through it as you try and find those last couple of chips, with the spacing of platforms (both vertical and horizontal) perfectly crafted for maximum speed. I imagine speedrunners have been having a blast with this game since its April launch.

The combat and enemy skill sets can feel a tad repetitive, but they are mostly feeders for your spare parts stash than your main focus while moving through the game. This isn’t a battle across Arcadia, it’s more of a platforming adventure, but the boss fights are all more finely tuned and present unique challenges that never frustrate. Building out your chip set and finding the right balance for your play style allows for plenty of experimentation and you can have quite the diverse range of abilities boosted once you’ve filled up your collection.

Haiku, the Robot is a great entry into the Metroidvania genre. It feels fresh, while executing the staples of the genre expertly. It clearly accomplishes what it set out to be, while being expertly crafted with perfect performance on my playthrough, while making sure the player never feels frustrated while constantly challenging them across their whole journey. Haiku, the Robot is not to be missed for fans of the genre, but also feels like a great entry point game for someone (somehow) unfamiliar with it. It’s an easy recommendation from me and I look forward to whatever Mister Morris does next.

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