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Harold Halibut Review

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Back in the 2000s, games seemed to have the shortest development times; some times due to tech requirements and others thanks to the dreaded crunch. Can you believe that GTA Vice City’s development time was 9 months? 

Nowadays, game demands are much greater and it comes as no surprise to see these games sit inside the creative cooker for longer. Harold Halibut is one of those – in development since the early 2010s. What has made the process longer than normal is that everything you see in the game, from the characters to the smallest object, has been handcrafted using puppetry and stop-motion animation. It’s a creative tour de force that you will love.  

Harold Halibut review 1
You’ll want to join Harold’s adventures

Harold Halibut comes with a warm, enchanting and magical feel to its story and visuals. Like a mix of something from Aardman Animations and a Wes Anderson film, Harold Halibut is a place you will enjoy spending some time in. What the developers have achieved in terms of artistry and technical achievement deserves your time and attention. But it also deserves it on the back of a good story, some absorbing bits of gameplay and things to do. 

The story puts you in the shoes of everyman, the odd-jobber, Harold Halibut. You live and work in the FEDORA I, a spaceship that crashed a long time ago on an alien planet and now resides under the sea where the survivors have built a whole community. The FEDORA I had left a dying Earth to find a new home, but accidentally ended up on this planet. All Water Corp control everything and are the bosses of this world and throughout you’ll spend time with teachers, scientists, shopkeepers, rebellions, and a theatre stage. But when Harold rescues a fishy resident of the planet itself, everything changes and the FEDORA I has a chance to go home…

The writing is very good in all departments. The main story is told with panache, complete with solid storytelling skills. It feels familiar but also highly original; intrigue, comedy and warmth ooze throughout. The sub-stories or side quests you go on introduce you to all the characters on the FEDORA I. These are fantastic, all well-built and designed with their flaws, foibles and nuances. There’s a moment in the game where you have to read and deliver all the lost letters on board; that’s my own particular favourite story thread. 

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A superbly created world

The gameplay puts you into a 2.5D world, as you explore, taking Harold around the screen. You can interact with items of interest and collect things to help you with your quests. There is a PDA system that you obtain early on which has messages, your jobs, and sub-jobs for you to complete. But during the game, the developers introduce extra gameplay mechanics, like puzzles where you control a sub at one point or you have to complete a repair on a fuse box. It keeps your interest throughout and plays well. 

However, a criticism comes in the amount of backtracking between locations. There is a lot and during the middle section, this can feel tiresome. The game is long, coming in around fifteen hours or so in order to complete, so it could have done with some fast travel points in certain areas. But that is my only real criticism of what has been put together in Harold Halibut.  

Visually though, the game is outstanding. The technology used is wonderful, feeling like some serious wizardry in getting the action to run so smoothly. Harold Halibut just looks amazing throughout, and the attention to detail in each of the areas and rooms you explore is jaw-dropping. It may have taken years to make, but you can see why with every moment. 

Fully voiced, the performers do an excellent job, giving character, heart and soul. There are moments that feel nothing short of stunning, including in a musical number by Harold himself. The soundtrack is excellent as well with some new musical tracks and interesting atmospheric sounds playing out across the whole journey. 

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Harold Halibut will suck you in

Harold Halibut is a wonderfully creative endeavour that will suck you in. It’s such a nice change to play a game where the most evil of things is an overconfident air con salesman. A game with a lot of heart, the story is great with a satisfying creative arc and conclusion. In fact, it’s a game that is pretty mind-blowing, especially in terms of the visuals. The tech, design, and execution are perfect and whilst there is a slight problem with backtracking and pacing in the middle section, for the most part, Harold Halibut is a game you need to play.

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Outstanding visuals and tech
  • Exciting story
  • Sound
  • Some brilliant game mechanics
Cons:
  • Backtracking
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Slow Bros
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 16 April 2024 | £TBC
Gareth Brierley
Gareth Brierleyhttp://www.garethbrierley.co.uk
I am an actor and a writer. I act quite a bit on stage, a little bit on tv and never on tuesdays. I have had some of my writing published and have written for TV and stage. I have been playing games since they begun and don't seem to be getting any better.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Outstanding visuals and tech</li> <li>Exciting story</li> <li>Sound</li> <li>Some brilliant game mechanics</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Backtracking</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Slow Bros</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 16 April 2024 | £TBC</li> </ul>Harold Halibut Review
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