“My goal is to create a downloadable game with the quality of a triple-A game.”
Sure, like I haven’t heard a game developer tell me that a thousand times before. But for Moonspider Studios CEO Loris Malek, he’s taking aim at his goal by somewhat nontraditional gaming means: he’s hired a team of the most talented 2D animators he can find and is creating a Don Bluth cartoon that happens to be playable with a controller.
Yes, animation has been given top priority in Harold, a sidescrolling platformer where you control a veritable doofus. See, you’re a guardian angel’s apprentice, and in order get your people-protecting Master’s degree, as it were, you must complete the final exam in which you steer the clumsy Harold through timed obstacle runs where pratfalls and dangers constantly befall him.
The obstacle course also happens to be a race against other sad-sack mortals, however, so you’re competing with your fellow guardian angel apprentices for the top finish times. As such, you’ll need to egg Harold on with divine bolts of lightning, sabotage other racers, and use your godlike powers to look ahead in the race and clear a path for Harold as he ignorantly runs toward certain death.
And prepping the course for a smooth run is all you need to worry about, big job though it may be, as you don’t actually control Harold’s movements outside of jumping. Like the 2009 LucasArts platformer Lucidity, the stage is constantly advancing and you can’t stop it. Your job is to make sure Harold doesn’t kill himself, thereby causing you to flunk your guardian angel SAT.
Things start simply enough, but before long you’ll be constantly juggling hazards and looking for any shortcut you can in order to shave precious seconds off of Harold’s time. Gators ahead in a river you need to traverse? Give ‘em a holy whack on the noggin with your divine hammer. Is Harold nervously tiptoeing across a teetering plank bridge? Give him a nudge forward by pulling the bridge tight at each end and then release it to rubber-band snap the young man into gear. A total of four worlds – desert, jungle, beach, and snow – house multiple stages each, adding up to a pre-replayability total of about 6-8 hours of gameplay.
And as for those animations? You truly have not seen a video game look like this since…well, ever. “I wanted to make the first game that would look like a Walt Disney movie,” Malek says enthusiastically.
It shows. Film-quality cartoon cutscenes form the introductory sequence, finale, map introductions, and even mid-race moments. Harold is one game where you’re not likely to want to skip any of the cutscenes. Now that would be a divine miracle.
Ryan McCaffrey is the Executive Editor at IGN Xbox. He used to own a DeLorean, which is weird. Follow him on Twitter, on IGN, catch him on Podcast Unlocked, and drop-ship him Taylor Ham sandwiches from New Jersey whenever possible.
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