Haikuna Review

Game: Haikuna
Genre: Haiku, Puzzle
System: itch.io (Windows, Linux, Mac) (also available for Steam (Windows, Linux))
Developer|Publisher: Gamiri
Controller Support: None
Price: UK £2.49 | US $2.99 | EU € 2,99
Release Date: January 12th, 2024

Review code provided with many thanks to Gamiri.

Haikuna is a strange little game about finding hidden haikus in literature. It takes you on a journey through classics like Wizard of Oz and Don Quixote to ferret out hidden pieces of a poem.

Haikuna is Hard to Describe

Haikuna A haiku sits on one side of the screen, and in the center is a part of the Wizard of Oz.
This is stage one of Haikuna.

So, you are presented with parts, paragraphs, and pieces of literature, like the one above from Wizard of Oz. In the upper left-hand corner of the screen is a haiku you need to build. If you are unfamiliar, a haiku is a three-line poem with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five again in the third. One of the words from the haiku is hidden somewhere in the sentence, floating around in the middle.

Covering some of the words are little yōkai, Japanese spirits or other supernatural entities. Each yōkai gives you a little bit towards power, or it takes power away from you. When you click on it, it uncovers the word it is blocking and allows you to continue reading the sentence in the center of the page.

A haiku is in the upper left corner. There are some words in the center, and a large bird to the right. One of the words is covered by a little creature.
This is a yōkai covering the word between “she” and “awakened.”

The sentences can be turned, moved, and zoomed in on, and words can be clicked on to jump to that part of the literature. When you find the word that is in the haiku, you can click on it to go to the next section of the literature and find the next word. Once you find all the words from the haiku, you can move on to another puzzle.

A haiku sits in the middle of the screen. Dancing in my silks / money tossed itself away / pretty, this paper dress!
It might sound a little weird in English when forced into the haiku format, but the original Japanese is a lot more thoughtful and beautiful.

The first few haiku take all their words from Wizard of Oz, so you have to read the passage, look for yōkai, and then find one of the words from the haiku. The yōkai gives you powers which can be used to have the words of the passage move toward you as though they are the tracks of a rollercoaster you are riding in.

This is the How to Play Screen with all the relevant information to that level highlighted in white.
The directions start simple and get more complicated as the game progresses.

The Pros and Cons of Haikuna

This weird little game is an interesting way of learning haikus and constructing them out of existing passages. The movement is fun and fluid, and the sound design is fine. I got some EmilyBlaster vibes, a game from the novel Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, a book about fictional video game designers. As simple and unique as it is, there is something enticing about this strange little game that makes you want to keep playing.

It feels like a sort of love letter both to the haikus in Haikuna and the literary works that you take words from, and it makes it interesting to play. That being said, Haikuna is not a perfect game.

The screen is completely orange with the face of an author in the background, a haiku to the left.
Why with the flashing screens?

By default, Haikuna has massively intense flashing lights; every time you click on a word correctly, the whole screen flashes between brilliant orange and black, making it both a danger to people who are sensitive to flashing lights and just highly annoying to anyone else.

I had to turn off the flashing in the menu, thank goodness there was an option for it, before I could continue. If I had my way, I would 100% suggest this be completely removed from the game, as it adds nothing but takes away from the peaceful feeling of playing.

A Haiku sits to the left as you fly along some other words; they say "habit, for her remembered when..."
Rollercoaster time.

Also, the rules of how to play are not described well. Haikuna tells you to click on yōkai but doesn’t explain what a yōkai is for those who aren’t familiar. Even when I was looking straight at one, I thought it was a feather or something, not an evil being I was supposed to be clicking on.

A swirl of words has a yokai in it.
I found a- a something. A feather? A bug? A squiggle?


Haikuna has the feeling of a first-time game that hasn’t been playtested by anyone yet. It has a lot of interesting things to say with fun sound design, interesting poems, and a whole lot of heart. But it just doesn’t feel quite like it’s done. Between the unnecessary flashing lights and the weird directions, I have a feeling that if Haikuna has had playtesting, it’s not from people who play video games. Regardless, there is a lot of potential for a unique little educational indie game if it gets a little more work.

Final Verdict: I Like it
I like it

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