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Harold Halibut – the stop-motion underwater Game Pass adventure you will want to play

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Harold Halibut keyart
Harold Halibut – why you should play

We were originally promised the release of Harold Halibut in 2019, so we’ve been waiting a fair while to get stuck into playing this retro-future narrative game. But, we’re glad to say that we recently got the chance to play the first couple of hours of the game, ahead of its full release onto PC, Playstation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and as part of Xbox Game Pass on April 16th.

It’s safe to say that Harold Halibut is a unique game, in more ways than one. 

Let’s start with the obvious thing that makes it stand out from the crowd – the stop-motion look – achieved through the painstaking process of hand building physical models and then 3D scanning to place them into the virtual space. 

The characters and backgrounds are gloriously rendered and give warm, retro vibes as they make the game look like many of the stop motion films that we enjoyed as a child. The character’s clothes are made of actual cloth and the floors are real wooden floorboards. You wouldn’t think this is a big deal until you play the game and realise that you have never experienced this type of realism in an animated game before. 

Take a look at the game trailer of Harold Halibut to get an idea of just how different the visual experience is.

The second thing that caught our attention was the story and setting.

Harold Halibut is set on a city-sized spaceship that fled an Earth on the verge of cold war 250 years ago to find an habitable planet to preserve the human race. Only, things didn’t quite go to plan as the ship (the FEDORA I) instead crash landed into an alien ocean. This gives the game a quirky underwater feel – the windows all look out onto the ship’s watery surroundings full of alien marine life and the light filtering through them has an eerie green glow, adding to the atmosphere of the game.

You play as the titular Harold, a lab assistant whose days are filled with menial tasks helping the ship’s lead scientist, Jeanne Mareaux. You’ll get to feed the fish, clean the tank filter, and generally run around the ship completing tasks to aid your boss and her mission of helping the ship to escape its underwater habitat. Along the way you’ll meet the other inhabitants, who are all fully voice-acted.

These weird, wonderful and diverse people provide plenty of engaging conversations, and what little of the narrative we did get to experience was already full of drama and suspense, which ensured that we cannot wait to continue to find out what unfolds next. Conversations with other characters are mostly entertaining and there is the option of just reading the subtitles and skipping the narration; rarely did we feel the need to do this.

Harold gets to explore the ship via a tube transport system that is powered by water and run by the shady Allwater Corp., whose true mission is a significant mystery in the game. You can visit several districts: Agora Arcades, which contains shops and bars; the Energy District where scientists are trying to solve the ever increasing problem of supplying the ship with energy and the Lab District, which is Harold’s home.

Harold Halibut world
The world of Harold Halibut

At any one time you are given one or two very clear main story objectives plus a few optional side missions. You can remind yourself of these by accessing your electrical handheld device – the Compu-bud. Objects and people that Harold can interact with are signposted with a small icon when he comes close to them and they are very limited – there are no opportunities to read every poster or talk to every character like some similar narrative-based games and we welcomed this – Harold Halibut is all about the story with no unnecessary distractions. 

At no point did we find ourselves confused as to what to do or how to achieve it – the objectives are not at all challenging and merely a way of ensuring that the narrative flows at a comfortable pace. There are a few ‘mini games’ sprinkled throughout – such as helping a scientist to sort space rocks – and these add an entertaining change in gameplay.

It’s safe to say that Harold Halibut caught our attention and imagination with its unique style, setting and story. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the watery surroundings onboard FEDORA I and cannot wait to return with a full review of the game soon.

Harold Halibut will be released on Game Pass, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and PC on April 16th 2024. 

Huge thanks go out to the team at Slow Bros for giving us access to Harold Halibut for this preview.

Gemma Young
Gemma Younghttp://www.snapshotscience.co.uk
I'm a part-time gamer and a full-time writer of science-y things. On the few odd occasions that I'm able to wrestle the Xbox controller away from the avid gamers in my family, I enjoy spending time playing puzzle and adventure games.
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