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Harold Review

Auto-runners such as Rayman Jungle RunTemple Run and Jetpack Joyride have dominated mobile platforms for a while now, so it was only a matter of time before they started to invade the PC. Enter Harold, a 2D, puzzle-platforming racer from Moon Spider Studio. Taking the fast-paced, reactionary gameplay of an auto-runner and adding the fidelity of control and graphics allowed by a PC should have been a recipe for greatness. Ultimately, though, the result is a frustrating title that requires lightning-fast reactions and phenomenal dexterity.

Harold's premise revolves around a group of young angels taking part in a foot-racing tournament. Rather than running the races themselves, however, each angel is assigned a human tribute who they - and in turn, the player - must protect and help win the races. The player is cast as Gabe, the most popular and successful angel around. To teach Gabe the importance of humility he is assigned the hopeless and clumsy Harold, while all the other angels are given relatively athletic runners.

Harold Game

To make up for Harold's ineptitude, you'll have to do everything in your power to get him to the finish line as fast as possible. The controls sound pretty simple; the A button makes Harold jump, the left stick is used to perform various gestures to manipulate the environment, and the left and right triggers will switch between the interactive objects on screen. Unfortunately, it's not as straightforward as it sounds - the UI isn't always clear about which object is selected or what direction it needs to be moved, which is a killer in a game where split-second reactions are key.

Races are split up into around a dozen sections, each of which must be practiced separately first. The individual sections are like mini-puzzles with three stars that must be collected to find the fastest route. These range from simply moving a platform across a spiky pit, to complex button combinations that must be completed within a few seconds. Nailing them separately isn't much of a problem - most can be perfected after a few tries - but things get maddeningly hard when you've got to perfect all of them in a row.

Harold Game

In the later stages it's not just enough to get Harold through the fastest route, either - you'll also have to think about sabotaging the other racers. This means that as well as madly trying to align ramps, move platforms and break down walls to help Harold, you've also got to try and do the opposite to his rivals. Bare in mind that all this has to take place within a few seconds at least 12 times in a row, and you should be able to imagine the frustration. The game's premise is pretty appropriate, because you'll have to be a superhuman to succeed at it.

All of this is made more disappointing because Harold makes a great first impression. The game has a gorgeous hand-drawn cartoon style, which is just as impressive in gameplay as it is in cutscenes. Characters are full of personality, backgrounds are detailed and exquisitely animated, and the visuals overall have a Disney feel to them. The first few levels are also pretty fun, but it doesn't take long for the difficulty to spike massively.

Harold Game

There’s no multiplayer in the game, and the only other mode to mention is the challenge mode, which steps up the difficulty even further. In this mini-game you have to guide Harold at full-speed through a race track while collecting as many floating orbs as possible. Races allow several mistakes before game over - the challenge mode offers no such luxury. One false move and you're forced to start over, so you might need some masochistic tendencies to enjoy it.

Harold is a beautiful game, but the amazing presentation only serves to make its design flaws more obvious. The concept is great, but the execution is lacking. The reflex-based nature of an endless runner just doesn't sit well with the considered aspects of a puzzle game - at least not in this case. If you've got the patience of a saint and the dexterity of an expert pianist, you'll probably have a good time with Harold, otherwise, be prepared to pull your hair out.

5.00/10 5

Harold (Reviewed on Windows)

The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.

Harold is a beautiful game, but that's not enough to make up for sloppy design and maddeningly difficult gameplay.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Matt Girdler

Matt Girdler

Staff Writer

When he's not hunched over a computer programming, Matt can be found hunched over a computer playing and writing about video games.

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