Harold Halibut Review: Time Moves Slow

Here be Strength in Sarcasm’s super official Harold Halibut (PlayStation 5 version) review! Honestly, this cosmic aquatic adventure by the multimedia-talented Slow Bros. group was nowhere near my gamer radar. Apparently it was in development for over a decade… wow.

But yeah, good friend Kim of Later Levels told me I had to play it which left me with no choice, sadly. After tricking Kim into completing a 50+ hour playthrough of Final Fantasy XIII years ago, I have a video game recommendation debt to her that can never be repaid. Sigh.

My Progress

For, uh, reasons… I artificially and officially took about 25 hours to complete a playthrough of the game. Don’t worry! Normal people won’t have to play it for nearly that long to finish the story. After the credits rolled, I also hunted a few of the trophies I missed with the handy chapter select function.

Sadly (at the time of this review) there’s an annoying glitched trophy preventing people from getting the shiny platinum. Gr! Slow Bros. has promised a patch to fix that soon so fingers crossed. I’ll be doing the usual trophy scrapbook post thingy whenever I can get that. ๐Ÿ†

Analyzing My XP

Expect nothing, be happy!

Since it is entirely Kim‘s fault that I played (or even heard of) this game, I had zero expectations about it going in. That seems to be the best way to experience a video game! Forming my own opinion on things as I experience them usually enhances the whole journey for me.

Anyway, I found Harold Halibut’s setting incredibly interesting. A group of humans fled Earth to avoid a messy humanity-ending war. A couple centuries later, the quirky decedents of that group are living their best lives trapped on their sunken spaceship in the ocean of an alien planet.

Oh and let’s not forget about the potentially evil All Water Corporation micromanaging every aspect of life aboard the Fedora I. A society ruled by corporate bureaucracy… the horror!!

That whole story premise got me hook, line, and sinker for sure! If a video game’s story pulls me in and the characters are fun to meet, there’s a 90% I’ll enjoy it despite any gameplay issues. Harold Halibut definitely did that for me right at the start.

Not a lot to ‘do’ is nice sometimes

Speaking of gameplay… what even is a video game anymore? That question comes up quite a lot lately with the rise of visual novels and walking simulators.

Harold Halibut can be boiled down to one big slow-walking fetch quest that takes you and Harold through the same small areas over and over… and over and over again. There are a few ‘puzzles’ thrown in occasionally to keep things more game like. Those were so simple even I could solve them without asking Google, which says a lot (trust me).

I have no idea what I did in this ‘puzzle’, but the thing to move on happened.

All of that may sound boring as hell, but I actually liked the gameplay model and enjoyed the entire experience quite a lot. Either I’m old and boring now, or the game is actually good. I can’t decide. ๐Ÿค”

Typically I play massive open world RPGs with a billion different things to do and see. The story almost always gets a bit lost in these types of games. In Harold’s adventure, I only had to focus on enjoying the cute interactions between characters and watching the friendship-centric narrative come together beautifully. Plus it was a nice wholesome contrast to constantly exploding things and stealing cars in Grand Theft Auto V… like I’ve been doing for most of the year.

Wholesome handiwork and heart for the win

Where Harold Halibut truly shines is in its unique animation style. Taking inspiration from stop-motion films, Slow Bros. has handcrafted everything in the game and used some cool 3D scanner magic to make the things move with the Unity game engine. Neat!

The end result is so fun to watch, even if it isn’t technically true stop-motion. Picking out all the little environment details while revisiting the same area for the thousandth time added a lot of depth to what would have been an otherwise shallow underwater experience.

It’s not hard to tell a ton of loving effort went into creating the game, and that means a lot to me!

Overall…

At a time when the video game industry seems to be collapsing in on itself to appease the almighty non-gamer shareholders, it’s awesome to see a handcrafted indie adventure that the developers poured their soul into.

Things do move really, really sloooooow in Harold Halibut (which makes a lot of sense when you realize the developer is called Slow Bros.). Some gamers will definitely be turned off by the whole ‘not a lot going on for a while’ thing. However, if the story and setting clicks with you, you’ll definitely enjoy all that slowly moving time!

And shout-out to cool blogger buddies Professional Moron and Later Levels who also wrote awesome reviews of Harold Halibut you should check out, eh!

โš ๏ธMemory Lane (Click to see MASSIVE SPOILERS!!) โš ๏ธ

Favourite Ability/Item/Weapon

The Omnicom system developed by Professor Mareaux. I can’t remember the exact details of how it works, but it functions as a instant translator to bridge the communication gap between the Fedora residents and the Flumylym. I wish such technology existed in the world today (I’m sure AI is working on it already).

Favourite Character

All the characters were so fun to meet! I’ll pick Weeoo for this one though. Harold’s alien BFF is full of sarcasm and great thoughts on life. We just gotta go with the flow of the world sometimes.

Also, I’m glad I didn’t even notice Weeoo on the official ‘box’ art, making the introduction of an alien species a neat surprise to me.

Favourite Zone/Level/Area

Weeoo’s beautiful underwater cave home is definitely my favourite area. The story took such a long time to actually get there too. When it finally happened, it felt like a nice reward after seeing the same ship-style environments of the Fedora a few million times (gross exaggeration, obviously).

It was also the setting for one hell of an emotional scene near the end of the game when Harold is prepping to blast off with the Fedora, leaving his BFF Weeoo behind.

Saying goodbye to a close friend is always hard. The incredibly moving song Time Moves Slow by BADBADNOTGOOD feat. Sam Herring paired with the otherworldly wonders of the cave added to the feelz tenfold.

Favourite Story Moment

This may be all the Grand Theft Auto I’ve played this year talking, but I choose violence! Mwahaha!!

While Harold and Weeoo were having their bad trip in flower-dragon-energy-particle-land, Slippe turned out to be a slippery idiot. He attempted to freeze the entire ocean to create some sort of delusional winter wonderland, while preventing the Fedora from blasting off into space (also putting everyone in incredible danger).

Harold, Brigette, Weeoo and the whole gang eventually swoop in to confront Slippe and save the Fedora.

During the confrontation, my favourite muscle man (and usually super chill) Chris actually loses it and slaps Slippe into unconsciousness. The jerk definitely deserved it! Chris (and the entire game) had been so wholesome up to that point. The justified violence just seemed so out of context and awesome!! โœŠ

Favourite WTF Moment(s)

Definitely the flower-dragon-energy-particle-land thing was my favourite whoa moment. The cave’s source of energy particles is an ominous pit Weeoo and Harold get dropped into. Due to an unforeseen bubble type related mishap, the pair’s protective gear fails and duuuuude… whatever is in those particles is hella trippy, man!

The whole shared delusional fantasy(?) world was so weird and freaking cool to go through. Bonus points for the flying with the pretty dragon in the style of the arcade minigames part as well.

Do I agree with Harold’s final decision?

Abso-freaking-loutely! I would have made the exact same choice Harold did and stayed behind as the Fedora blasted off. The rare people in the world I call true friends mean the world to me. I’d much rather spend the rest of my life in a cool cave with a close friend I’ve formed a special bond with instead of facing the void of space with a group of mere acquaintances.

Sources: All images in this post are screenshots taken from the PlayStation 5 version of Harold Halibut by Slow Bros.

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