I love classic adventure games, stop-motion movies, and stop-motion classic adventure games such as The Neverhood. So I was excited to learn about Harold Halibut – an upcoming narrative adventure about a janitor in an underwater space station.
The Everyday Life of an Underwater Space Janitor
The whole “underwater space station” might be a bit confusing, so let me explain: Harold Halibut takes place around the year 2210, on an alien planet. Ok, let me explain some more.
In the 1960s, the human race lived under the constant threat of nuclear war between two world powers. The world’s most brilliant minds constructed, boarded and then launched a huge ark-like space station towards an Earth-like planet to ensure the human race’s survival. 200 years later, the station crash-landed onto the planet, straight into an endless ocean.
Harold Halibut takes place 50 years after the crash. No one onboard remembers Earth, and only a few remember a time when you could see something other than fish when you looked out the window. Naturally, the people on board the station aren’t very happy these days.
One of those people is Harold Halibut, a jaded janitor who gets embroiled in a conspiracy.
I recently had a chance to play a portion of the game while speaking with Ole Tillmann, the Art Director and Co-Founder of Slow Bros., the game’s developer.
After learning about the game’s rather complicated background, I had one burning question: Is Harold’s last name the result of a society adapting to its new underwater surroundings while still trying to maintain its connection to their origins on Earth?
Well, no… The developers just thought it was a funny name, which it is.
Narrative Over Point-and-click Puzzles
I played the demo using a standard controller that allowed me to move Harold freely through the beautiful if a bit depressing environments. This isn’t a point-and-click game; there are no classic inventory-based puzzles. Your inventory is pretty small and contains only a few items at a time. You also won’t find any moon logic puzzles here, which is always a concern when you talk about adventure games.
No, this is more of a narrative adventure where you talk to people and make choices. Tillmann cited the indie darling Night in the Woods and Telltale Games’ unique brand of gameplay as two major inspirations for the gameplay.
Much like early Telltale Games, the choices you make during the story won’t affect the overall story – key events will still happen, and there’s only one conclusion to it all.
What you do have control over is your relationship with all other characters on the station. Deciding to reveal or keep a secret, for example, might not be all that important in the grand scheme of things, but it will change how certain characters or even factions react to you, and might also change the sequence of events.
The Station Has a Colorful Past and Cast
While Harold Halibut is here to tell a story, it would never force you to stick to the main path. The game doesn’t even have a waypoint system – it’s up to you to figure out where stuff is and where you need to go.
Luckily, there are plenty of signs around the station, and navigating it feels pretty organic. I did get lost one time, but that was because I was too busy talking with Tillmann to notice where I was going.
Besides, getting lost can sometimes lead to good things. If you choose to explore, talk to characters and help them out, you will encounter new things to do in the form of side-missions. Again, these might not have any effect on the game’s ending, but they do teach you more about the way the station operations, and the people living there.
For example, during my exploration, I discovered a statue of a Cthulhu-looking creature. Tillmann was quick to inform me that this statue is a relic from the days a race of squid-people took over the station and ruled it for a short time.
If you ignore all side-missions, you can get through the game in about six hours, which is pretty nice for an indie title. But why would you ignore the side-missions?
Hand-crafted, Stop-motion Aesthetics
Harold Halibut plays like an adventure game but looks like a stop-motion movie. Tillmann did disclose to me that the game isn’t actually animated in stop-motion; that would be way too costly and time-consuming. Instead, the team hand-built these incredibly detailed character models (I got to see the original model of Harold, which was about the side of a doll), and then scanned them into 3D models they could animate using the proper software.
That way, they could create way more animations for all 42 hand-crafted characters.
However, everything you see in the game was created in real-life. The character models, their clothes, items, and background are all real. Slow Bros. is made up of artists working on different mediums, from sound designers and 3D artists to carpenters and textile designers.
You’ll be able to enjoy the hand-crafted aesthetics and the intriguing conspiracy story in 2019, when Harold Halibut comes out on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch version is also in the cards, but only after the other versions are out.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.