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Xbox Game Pass has its own Super Mario Odyssey, and it’s a delight

A giant ghost is wrapped in chains in Hauntii.

PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X have a lot of advantages over the Switch, but there’s one advantage Nintendo never loses: games. While Sony and Microsoft struggle to put out consistent exclusives, Nintendo always manages to put out fairly high-quality games on a monthly bases (even if some recent releases have felt like filler). The fact that you can only play Super Mario Odyssey on a Nintendo console will always be the company’s ace in the hole.

Thankfully, enough developers have been influenced by Nintendo’s design that it’s not hard to find a great title that scratches the same itch as a Nintendo classic on competing platforms. Just look at games like the Pikmin-inspired Tinykin. Xbox has been especially smart about seeking out games like that over the years and adding them to Xbox Game Pass. It’s done that once again with one of its newest additions, the delightful Hauntii.

Released last week on most major platforms and Game Pass, Hauntii is a stylish adventure game about a little ghost on a quest to track down mysterious beings known as Eternians. But before you dive into any of that, it’s the art style that’s likely to catch your eye. Hauntii features a unique, hand-crafted world made up of black-and-white squiggles. It’s somewhere between Genesis Noir and Bayonetta Origins: Cerveza and the Lost Demon — and it looks spectacular. It uses that style to craft an otherworldly adventure that makes me feel like I’m lost in the woods at night. It’s both eerie and serene in the same breath.

A ghost shoots an enemy in Hauntii.

While that might be enough to draw you in, it’s the Nintendo-like design that will really grab you. Hauntii plays like a smaller take on Super Mario Odyssey, successfully playing on several of its best features while adding some light twin-stick shooter combat. The core hook is that players can possess a variety of objects, each of which has their own use. Inhabiting a tree will let players shake out some currency, while jumping into a ladybug will let them fly and climb. While nothing is as complex or visually silly as Mario Odyssey‘s possessions, that gameplay hook encourages players to try interacting with the environment as much as possible to learn its rules.

That alone would warrant a Mario comparison, but it’s the strong collect-a-thon gameplay loop that really seals the comparison. In each biome, players can collect stars that can be placed in a constellation to earn upgrades like health and speed boosts. Those stars are hidden behind little events that players naturally discover while exploring. See a glowing tree? Try haunting it and you may find a star hidden within. Are those people racing each other? Jump in and run through some hoops to find a secret star. It’s a satisfying gameplay loop that Mario Odyssey nailed; bite-sized activities like these make even the shortest exploration sessions feel worthwhile.

That’s not to say that Hauntii is as polished as a Nintendo game. Though its art style is striking, it does make for some difficult platforming thanks to some confusing art and geometry that make it hard to figure out where exactly you’re standing. That slow-building issue culminates in a late-game boss fight built around a spinning vortex that’s so difficult to navigate that you might put down your controller for good.

A ghost walks on a long bridge in Hauntii.

Even with that frustration, Hauntii really captures the spirit of a good Nintendo game better than a lot of its peers. It understands that an inviting digital world should feel like a playground or an amusement park (coincidentally, the adventure’s best biome is exactly that). It’s loaded with little attractions that players can bounce between quickly before any one idea gets old. It’s a collection of delightful vignettes wrapped up in one creepy cute adventure.

So sure, you’ll likely never be able to play Super Mario Odyssey on an Xbox. But that just means you have more time to try out creative indies like this that are building on Nintendo’s groundwork with wonderful results.

Hauntii is available now for PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC. It’s also available through Xbox Game Pass.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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