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Haraka Review

By Andrew Nesvadba, on September 27, 2011


Haraka
Download on the AppStore
Rating

PROS

  • Simple, intuitive controls; easy to manipulate the ball with precision.
  • Multiple AI levels and unlockable power-ups; player stats also increase over time, evens the playing field.
  • Funky TRON-like visual style; simple, yet retro and vibrantly colorful.

CONS

  • Easy to get locked in to a back-and-forth loop with the AI; often results in a depressing loss.
  • Slightly cramped controls for two players on smaller iOS devices.

VERDICT

Once you delve deeper in to Haraka you'll have your face blown off by its ninja-like speeds; this can be fun with a friend, but requires some tweaking to fully appreciate against AI opponents.


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When you dive in to the 'classic' archives for inspiration, Pong regularly comes up as a concept that begs for re-imagining. While some have taken a literal approach to the task and others have taken far more abstract paths, Haraka by Studio Joho and Mental Drink only retains the one on one ball-bouncing aspect of the game and still manages to dredge up Atari-soaked memories of the past.

Haraka divides the screen in half, giving each player a portrait oriented court they must defend. Basic virtual buttons allow you to dash left and right, with the character automatically whacking the ball as it approaches them. Here's where things get interesting though as the ball is deflected as though you're covered in a circular shield, allowing you to control the ball with a lot of finesse if you can think ahead fast enough.

Sadly 'fast enough' is where the game hits a bit of a rough patch as each strike from the players will increase the speed of the ball, quickly reaching speeds that outpace your character and your basic reaction speeds. This places the game firmly in the domain of the AI you're up against and you're bound to experience plenty of frustrating losses as a result of this.

Thankfully clever use of power-ups including 'stat' bonuses, barriers and other goodies allow you to control the pace of the game (including the much appreciated 'slow down' to bring the speeds back to human levels), though this does place you at the mercy of luck when attempting to conquer the next of nine AI opponents.

In order to side-step this issue altogether you can grab a friend and play against each other on the one screen (an iPad helps here, but isn't necessary). What makes this mode really shine is the ability to fight over power-ups and power-downs, flicking them about to gain an advantage or mess the other player's day. Strangely enough, it's the manic gameplay that makes playing against friends so much fun, which makes the issue of balancing the game for single-player and multi-player a tricky one.

Either way, Haraka has its ups and downs, but if you need a fun and fast-paced way to kill some time (and maybe ruin a few friendships), this is worth checking out.

Screenshots

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