In the not-so-distant future, humanity has sent arks out into space to find a new place to live. Something has gone wrong, however, and now a station sits bobbing atop an oceanic planet. Most of the original crew have died of old age and the new generation struggles on with the mission to try to find a way home. Harold Halibut takes what could be a very grim setting and casts players into the role of a luckless janitor aboard the station — a janitor key to kindling the ignition to start that journey home.
Harold Halibut, from Slow Bros, is an adventure-puzzle game which plays on the more social puzzles of nineties point-and-click titles, making the game into a more narrative experience. Set aboard the floating remains of a crashed spaceship, the titular character — normally just a janitor — doubles as a research assistant to one of the few who remain from the original crew. As the story begins, you’re on the cusp of a new discovery, as objects scraped from the base of the ocean give clues about a new way to reactivate the ship.
Nothing is ever simple, though; there’s always something missing or something hidden away. While there’s not much in the way of object-based puzzling in Harold Halibut — with a lot of your time spent moving from floor to floor and room to room around the ship — the ship’s characters are always on the move, working their jobs and busying themselves. It’s never straightforward to get a solution, and in the demo I played through at Gamescom, I was sent on a spiralling journey from research lab to the shopping district and back to the medical labs. It was a twenty-to-thirty-minute slice of the game, which saw me interacting with half a dozen characters (a shade on the total in the final game) including overzealous ticket inspectors and troublemaking kids.
Everything is brought together by two different elements: the artwork and the humanity. All of Harold Halibut’s art is made from collage mish-mashes of crafting materials, then animated in stop motion. It gives everything a strange playfulness, and also captivates through its uncanny nature. Saying it’s uncanny is interesting, because my next point is how it is also incredibly realistic. Characters don’t ‘speech’ at each other, they speak; conversation is natural, nobody performs extra exposition about objects or items — it is exceptionally well written and at times — as a result of this, too — funny.
Harold Halibut does not currently have a release date, and is being developed for PS4, Xbox One and PC.