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Horace

Posted by GG Goblin On October - 29 - 2020

A small robot on a big adventure.

 
Gamers of a certain age will have cut their gaming teeth on platformers. Back in the day, every other game was a platformer and they became the primary genre on the early consoles. While the genre is no where near as prolific as it once was, new platforming games are regularly turning up, with many of them being inspired by those classic games of old. Inspiration is one thing, but rarely does a new platforming game turn up that presents itself as a pure love letter to those older games like 505 Games Horace. Recently released on PC, Horace is now available on Switch, bringing this emotional and nostalgic tale to a whole new audience of players. Developed by Paul Helman and Sean Scapelhorn, Horace is a new old platformer that shouldn’t be missed.

 


 
The titular Horace is a robot that has been taken in by a wealthy family to help out, but quickly becomes more a part of the family than another piece of equipment. Through the course of this time, Horace develops relationships with the family and also becomes much more self-aware. This leads to a whole investigation into the Human condition and allows Horace to explore the meaning mortality. Horace is a surprisingly narrative heavy platformer and is very easy to sink into and remain immersed. This story is perhaps the largest appeal of the game, and so it would be a crime to ruin it with spoilers. But be prepared to laugh and cry through the course of the game. Also, prepare to be confronted with lots of pop culture references and even a certain amount of self-awareness. It is an amazingly well put together game, with none of the comedy feeling forced and none of the more heartfelt moments feeling exploitive, and it moves so naturally from one to another that players can’t help but feel engrossed in the whole experience.

 
The early part of the game acts as a tutorial of sorts, before letting the player work things out for themselves. The platforming side of the game is tightly done with a decent weight to Horace’s movement and jumping. While it may begin with some simple platforming work, there is ample variety in the game, from the ability to walk on walls and ceilings, to the small sections that will take on a completely different gameplay style that references the games on the time. Puzzles and boss battles further flesh out the gameplay to ensure that players will have no chance to get bored while playing Horace. Horace is one of those games that seems to keep on expanding with ideas. One minute the player might be running along, jumping to avoid sparks, the next they could be escaping from an oncoming wall of water, while the next they may be playing a version of Pong.

 


 
Then there is the collecting, a staple in platformers. Horace seems quite happy to mock this regular mechanic, challenging the poor robot to collect what is basically rubbish. Even this has a level of poignancy though, as Horace’s own belief is that if he clears up enough of this trash it will bring him closer to being Human. Whatever the reasoning, many players enjoy the hunt for collectibles enough that this will be a positive feature.

 
Horace is a tricky platformer. Despite the often emotional goings on, playing the game will prove a challenge to many gamers. However, failing will just cast the player back to a checkpoint, of which there are many, and there is no worry about running out of lives or anything. These moments of having to restart never feel frustrating thanks to the solid platforming mechanics. As the game progresses, things will obviously get more difficult, but this is tempered by shields that will give Horace a second chance.

 
There is a wonderful naivety to Horace that makes him very endearing, and we have already mentioned that both the story and the gameplay is great. However, the visuals are where most people’s first impressions of Horace will be formed, and as with everything else in this game, they are very well done. The game is 2D in nature and presented with a retro pixel-art style. At first glance this may look like all of the other pixel-art indie games that can be played on Switch, but looking further reveals a level of detail and character that raises it above most. Throw in sound work that harkens back to the 8 or 16-Bit era and the resulting package is not far from perfect. If there is anything to be concerned about, it would be that the game is so unassuming that many potential players may pass Horace by without even giving it a glance.

 


 
Horace is a game that succeeds in so many ways. The story is both heartfelt and comedic. The gameplay is mostly platforming, but occasionally jumps into other genres for variety. The pixel-art visual style delivers a nostalgic kick while also feeling at home on Switch. And it all comes together perfectly. The level of difficulty may be the only thing that could potentially turn players away. However, for those platforming fans that don’t mind a challenge, Horace is an essential play.

 

 ★★★★★★★★★☆ 



 

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