Much like the increasingly gamified world of dating apps, our favorite hobby is awash with RPGs depicting romance as little more than glorified fetch quests - relationships unlocked via an in-game bar to be filled. But what happens once all the flirting ends? Enter The Game Baker's romance-themed co-op RPG, Haven. Sporting a striking art style reminiscent of achingly cool Image Comics’ series, Saga, this intergalactic adventure tells the story of two star-crossed lovers, stranded on a strange planet. Refreshingly, this isn’t a game about making two virtual avatars get the hots for each other. Instead, Haven starts mid-way through our joint protagonists’ relationship, bypassing the honey mood period and allowing players to navigate a proper, pre-existing partnership – warts ‘n all.
The names of our pixelized paramours? Yu and Kay. Combining the soothing exploration of Thatgamecompany’s Journey with the turn-based combat of an old school JRPG, Haven’s gameplay mirrors the unbreakable bond of our cutesy couple. In fact, for the vast majority of its runtime, Yu and Kay are literally inseparable. Whether you are playing in local co-op with a partner or experiencing this journey on your lonesome, a flick of the analog stick moves both Yu and Kay simultaneously, causing our loved-up protagonists to glide along the colorful planet’s surface.
Haven is a place (off) Earth
Marooned on the mysterious rock for reasons we won’t spoil, our stranded soulmates find their new home – ‘ Haven’ - engulfed by a sickly goo-like substance called rust. Unsurprisingly, these weird glowing puddles aren’t exactly doing wonders for the planet. Our devoted duo soon discovers that the ruinous rust has enraged Haven’s once-friendly wildlife. Not the best housewarming gift, really. With no one else around to help, it falls to Yu and Kay to crack on with the cleaning, as our charming couple set out to clear Haven’s interconnected ‘islets’ and ‘pacify’ its fiendish fauna.
Just like in the aforementioned Journey, much of Haven’s core gameplay sees the couple calmly gliding around idyllic surroundings. Harnessing the power of the energy source ‘flow’, players send Yu and Kay drifting around Haven’s collection of luscious locales, hovering over said flow to absorb it, Airblade style, and then releasing it from their floaty space boots to eradicate that pesky rust.
1V1 me on Rust
Along the way, you’ll find new parts for your ship, make some adorable animal acquaintances, and cook up a LOT of weird dishes. It’s a gameplay loop that’s fun and varied enough to get you into a flow of your own, but what really keeps you coming back to Haven are Yu and Kay. Throughout their 10-hour journey, our constantly-chatting couple feels heart-warmingly relatable. Whether it’s squabbling over meal choices or cracking increasingly goofy in-jokes, Yu and Kay’s steady stream of believable banter makes even the most mundane task feel essential.
Even when you begin to tire of drifting across Haven’s increasingly samey environments, you persevere because you know you’ll be rewarded with a new snippet about the couple’s past. This isn’t a game where you’ll want to grind in order to increase Yu and Kay’s stats - you’ll do it to hear that next grin-inducing anecdote.
Much like an Annapurna joint, the writing here is sharp, funny, and human throughout, expertly brought to life through stellar performances from actors Janine Harouni and Chris Lew Kum Hoi. With barely any repeating dialogue, even nine hours in, Yu and Kay’s chatter would elicit chuckles from my partner and me. Yet it's not just Yu and Kay’s conversations that keep you invested in their relationship. Leave our couple unintended long enough and the pair lean in for either a soft embrace or a passionate kiss ( healing the two players). Position their anime-esque avatars close enough and our cutesy couple begins to hold hands as they glide across the planet’s surface. It’s all utterly adorable stuff. Combine that with the multitude of dialogue choices that make up 90% of conversations, and you soon feel just as invested in their relationship as Yu and Kay themselves.
Still, what’s love without hardship? In Haven, many of Yu and Kay’s fetch-quests or islet cleansing sprees are broken up by rumbles with rust-ravaged creatures. Yet even in its combat, this is a game about love and communication. As anyone who’s ever been in a relationship will attest, making a partnership work is all about finding the right rhythm – getting into the right flow of couple-y cadence. It’s a motif that’s perfectly captured in Haven’s battle system.
Inspired by classic JRPGs, Yu and Kay’s turn-based tussles give players a choice between four main moves: but with a twist. Depending on who you’re controlling, each move will be charged and executed in real-time, with more powerful shared ‘duo attacks’ only being triggered if both players release the same button simultaneously. It’s here where that classic couple-y communication comes into play. Read each other’s intentions correctly - or preemptively shout your next move at your co-op partner - and Yu and Kay’s perfectly choreographed moves will land correctly. Fail to communicate? Well, prepare to take an extra beating.
Once ‘pacified’, these once rust-coated creatures go back to being friendly little fluffballs. Why? Because Haven is about love triumphing against all odds - something that’s even subtly reflected in Yu and Kay’s plant-based diet. As the stakes grow and the reason for our couple’s isolation emerges, this story of enduring love compels you to see Haven to the end. In other words, despite its flaws, this well-paced, uplifting adventure tells an utterly essential tale – whether you’re flying solo or navigating this mysterious world with a co-op cutie of your own.
Haven is out now on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and Xbox One.