Moon Spider Studio has accomplished something very special with Harold. They’ve taken the mundane continuous-runner genre, which is typically geared towards mobile gaming, and embellished it with gorgeous graphics, a superb soundtrack and challenging gameplay mechanics. Harold plays like a beautiful interactive animation, and it brims with personality and charm. Unlike the casual gameplay style of the titles that inspired it, Harold is designed for hardcore gamers. Its difficulty oftentimes frustrates, but pushing through the brutal hurdles is immensely satisfying. Harold is a one of a kind gem, even if its simplistic foundation may not appeal to gamers seeking something new and unique.
Harold is no athlete. He’s too clumsy and too feeble for competitive running, but that’s not stopping him from trying. As his guardian angel-in-training, you’re assigned with helping Harold overcome impossible obstacles and cross the finish line. Because every opponent has an advantage over Harold, you’re forced to manipulate the environment to your advantage. Track obstacles can be shifted to interfere with your opponents, and you can even use lightning strikes to give Harold a speed boost.
"They’ve taken the mundane continuous-runner genre, which is typically geared towards mobile gaming, and embellished it with gorgeous graphics, a superb soundtrack and challenging gameplay mechanics."
It doesn't’ take long before Harold’s difficulty kicks in. Even during the initial tutorial stage, learning how to time Harold’s jumps isn’t easy. Because of his flimsy and wobbly movement, jumping requires pixel perfect precision. Aside from the power boost, Harold doesn't have too many tricks up his sleeve, so you, the guardian angel, have to “cheat” to push Harold forward. Every track is filled with dangerous interactive obstacles that can be used to slow down opposing players. See a crocodile up ahead? Bash him with the heavenly hammer so that Harold can run across his belly as he flips over. If there’s a runner behind you, the croc quickly comes to his senses and counter attacks. Alternately, if enemies ahead of you are nearing an obstacle, they may use similar tactics to slow you down.
Harold’s speed boost is your most precious tool. Winning depends on how strategically you implement the lightning strike. Of course, the boost is limited and Harold can only recharge it by collecting halos. Use it too often, and you’ll miss out on a speed boost right before the enemy nears a trap. It sounds simple on paper, but it’s devilishly tough in practice.
"Aside from the power boost, Harold doesn't have too many tricks up his sleeve, so you, the guardian angel, have to cheat to push Harold forward."
Harold’s biggest challenge lies in switching between obstacles via the shoulder buttons. The left analog stick is used for moving platforms, while the LT and RT are used for switching between objects. Pressing LB and RB simultaneously activates the speed boost. The responsiveness is fine, but the control layout feels odd. This is clearly a game designed for mobile devices where finger swiping is used for most actions. On a gamepad, it feels unnatural and adds unnecessary frustration.
After completing each race, players can try their luck with the challenge mode. Here, Harold has to collect hundreds of stars, while flawlessly navigating the deadly environment. The challenges are even harder than the races because the smallest mistake results in a complete restart. While the challenges are a nice plus, they don’t add much variety to the gameplay.
"From its creative character designs to the vibrant and diverse backgrounds, Harold looks and moves like a big budget animation."
Harold is a gorgeous looking game. This may be one of the prettiest 2D platformers since Rayman Legends. From its creative character designs to the vibrant and diverse backgrounds, Harold looks and moves like a big budget animation. Add to that an incredible soundtrack and superb voice acting, and you have a game that’s truly a pleasure to venture through. It’s just a shame it doesn’t support resolutions higher than 1080p.
Harold is a wonderful little indie title that should be picked up by anyone who enjoys a good challenge. At its core, it’s a simple continuous-runner platformer, but there’s just so much more that the game has to offer. The narrative is fun, the characters are charming, the gameplay is addictive and the visuals are fascinating. Its difficulty may drive you nuts...but the payoff is undoubtedly rewarding.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: PC