Harold seems like a rehash of certain games resembling Bit Trip Runner or Geometry Dash, but I was a little surprised to what the game had to offer. The hand-drawn animations and inspirational music score alone gives you a feeling of being part of an animated film. I thought the game mechanics would be generic, like Bit Trip Runner, by having to memorize certain patterns coming at you by jumping, sliding, or blocking, but Harold goes further. It adds ways to manipulate certain objects and environments toward the runnerâs advantage. What really surprised me is how much the game cost. Usually, games such as this cost somewhere between $5-$10 dollars but Harold costs around $20. What makes Harold different?
Well, for starters, Harold has a story, which seems like the only generic part in the game. We are introduced to a guardian angel named Gabe, who is being trained with other guardian angels by protecting mortals. Gabe is eager to participate when he, and the other classmates, are offered a chance into the guardian angels academy. This is determined by protecting the mortals through a series of treacherous races. Everyone gets an all-star runner except Gabe; he gets Harold. Harold lacks in athletic skills and is unintelligent in performing his own course of action throughout the game. In order for Gabe to come out on top he must assist Harold by manipulating the environment and attacking other runners in order to achieve victory.
Before I talk about how the gameplay works in Harold I want to explain the control scheme. In order to play Harold you are required to use a controller. This is a major setback because not every pc gamer has a controller. I only have one â the PS3 Dual Shock, and itâs rather busted. Having to use my piece-of-crap controller to play Harold frustrated me because it was either play with a controller or quit the game. I understand the controller is necessary for making moving objects and rotating bridges easier but it still would be nice to have alternate ways to play.
Now, as for the gameplay itself â there isnât much to it. The only two things that set Harold apart from most side-scrolling platformers is the ability to alter the environment and using power ups. Since Harold is not a very skilled runner you will have to assist him by manipulating the courses. The game grants you the ability to cut vines, collapse bridges and similar things. This helps Harold by advancing through areas he is inept to figure out on his own and attack other opponents.
There is one power up in Harold and thatâs the Puff Powers. This will double as both your turbo charge and health replenish. Using a Puff Power causes Harold to boost for a short period of time, but loses a health piece. Two ways to gain a Puff Power: One, Wing Rings and two, knocking opponents off the courses. The Wing Rings are floating halo pieces and if two are collected then youâre rewarded with a Puff Power. A max of three Puff Powers is allowed, but an additional one can be gained from practice mode.
This brings me to the game modes of Harold. There are only three game modes to Harold and those are: practice, race, and challenge. In practice mode you train the parts of race mode. This is a great way to get a little bit of an edge on things before trying to frantically, memorize what object comes next with each race. Also, in practice, the game adds stars to collect through each level. If all the stars are collected in each level you receive an additional Puff Power, but only for the current stage.
Racing is required to get to the other stages in the game. Since Harold is so slow at his normal running speed he will have to use boost and knock other opponents off the course. Beating an opponent to trail off course is not entirely satisfying. Yes, you gain a Puff Power but the opponent respawns in front of the obstacle. This creates an unfair advantage by making death more of a benefit than a punishment. The race requires you to come in at least 3rd place in order to progress through the other levels. The first couple of races are a piece of cake but as Harold runs through the different stages he is faced with more complicated challenges. Example would be rotating a draw bridge and immediately switching to the platform by pushing it down preventing Harold from falling into a pit.
Finally, thereâs the Challenge mode. Challenge is for the perfectionist who likes collecting. The most frustrating thing about this game mode, to set it apart from the other two, is that thereâs no health bar and every time you get damaged the level resets. On top of that there are around 100 to 200 blue stars to collectâ¦ without dying once.
Visually, the game draws inspiration from Disney and Pixar movies. All the cut scenes and in-game graphics are hand-drawn by artists who have worked for DreamWorks, Pixar, and Studio Ghibli. The in-game visuals are truly impressive with vibrant and colorful worlds, but what really sets the mood of this game is its music. The game features a gospel choir to cheer you on by passing each opponent in a race. Almost as if people on the side lines are singing an anthem about you as coming out victorious. The gospel choir isnât limited to that, either as the more opponents you pass the more will gospel choirâs voice increase in volume and more musical elements, like bongos or xylophones, praise your feat. Harold goes above and beyond by also changing the choirâs songs, depending on the level youâre traversing through. The jungle level sings a tribal, Lion King-like beat whereas the desert one will feature spiritual and ancestral songs that echo in similarity with Aladdin or Pocahontas. The addition of the choir makes the game a much more enjoyable experience.
Even with three game modes, stunning visuals, uplifting gospel music, and somewhat unique gameplay mechanics is Harold worth the $20? The game has some addicting elements that set it apart from most similar titles by doing an exceptional job at creating and maintaining the atmosphere, but it doesnât deliver a lengthy campaign. At times I felt like I was being forced to collect everything in practice and challenge rather than just competing in the races. Maybe if the game offered multiplayer, or even the ability to create your own course through steam workshop, would I then be satisfied, but for $20 I feel like Iâm buying an overpriced Bit Trip Runner.