Harold
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2015-03-21 PC Platform E10 (Everyone 10+) Moon Spider

Endless runners are a challenge for me, as I lack the quick reflexes and coordination required to progress. However, Harold had a premise that I really enjoyed and seemed like a lot of fun, which is what motivated me to play it.

After some serious issues and plenty of rage moments attempting to set up the Xbox 360 controller to play Harold on Steam (the system wouldn't recognize my controller at all for unknown reasons until eventually I gave up and switched to another computer), I managed to sit down to play and test my lack of coordination.

Harold puts you in the shoes of Gabriel (Gabe for short), one of the guardian angels participating in a race. Each guardian is in charge of guiding their own runner, and Gabe ends up with what seems to be the least likely human in the bunch to win: Harold. Your task is to guide Harold safely through a series of increasingly complex obstacle courses.

Harold will be constantly running, and your job is to command him to jump, slide, dangle on vines, or move platforms in order for him to avoid various dangers and reach the goal. Preferably before your opponent does.

Each course has three modes: Practice, Race and Challenge. Practice allows you to see what you're about to get into, check out all the obstacles and figure out the best way to get through them. If you collect all the stars in Practice mode, you receive a boost to use in the actual Race.

The narrator will thoroughly explain what you need to do and what buttons do what, while also giving a speech which is somewhat tedious and incredibly lengthy, about something relating to the story, but simultaneously irrelevant for learning gameplay mechanics. He can get pretty annoying with his epic narrative skills, especially after I've killed Harold a few too many times in any given stage and constantly had to restart and hear the same thing. Skip, skip skip! Perhaps a different voice would have made this process a little less irritating.

Doing a Practice run is absolutely necessary. There is no ifs or buts about it, you must go through it before you are able to access the Race. It does slow down progression, since you must listen to the narrator explaining things every time a new element is introduced to the game. Most times, by the time I was done with the practice and moved on to the actual Race, I was already tired of it. But you can't move on to the next stage until you do Practice and then Race.

Race, as the name states, is the real thing. Here you attempt to do everything you have learned in Practice, but with the added bonus of competing against the other contestants, which makes for some pretty hectic and confusing gameplay. You break down barriers, shift or raise platforms and alter the race track to make sure Harold goes down the best route. At the same time, you attempt to slow down your opponents by interacting with the same platforms and other obstacles to hinder their progress.

There is a lot to think about and plan at any given time, and on a very short time limit. The steep learning curve doesn't make it any easier either, neither does the trial and error experience. It's really all about timing and coordination, and apparently I couldn't really master neither of those. Not to mention there were times where the controls just didn't respond. As you can imagine, my races were passable, at best. Actually, more like laughable, really.

However, when it all works as intended - and yes, sometimes it did work for me - it's rather satisfying and you get the most incredible sense of accomplishment ever. Until you reach the next Practice and have to do it all over again, and this time with more added confusion! Yay!

If the Race isn't challenging enough for you, you can try the Challenge mode, which where you can push yourself to try to achieve the perfect run. Easier said than done... unless you possess ungodly reflexes or an extra pair of hands. Or maybe I'm really just that bad at it!

I do love how the game looks and sounds. The details in the backgrounds and animations are worth looking at, the humor is refreshing (nothing quite like smiting Harold with lightning to make him go faster!) and the gospel choir soundtrack is like the icing on the cake.

Harold isn't easy, it's definitely not for everyone, and it certainly is a time-consuming game. It requires patience, persistence and precision, three things I couldn't muster. My experience was rather intimidating and frustrating, but that's not to say others won't enjoy it, particularly if they of the completist type and looking for a good challenge.