by Murray Lewis
reviewed on PC
On a wing and a prayer
Harold is a 2D platform-racer from Floridians Moon Spider Studio. In it, you play a guardian angel-in-training watching over the world's most gawkily inept marathon runner as he tries to reach the finish line in good time and in one piece.
Is it a lesson in trying one's best to succeed, no matter what? Is it a cunning metaphor for life; the constant struggle of the common man against seemingly impossible odds, helped along by occasional bursts of fate? Or is it just an excuse to watch cartoon people fall over?
Keep on Running
At first glance, the game looks very much like a traditional platformer but it actually has more in common with the 'infinite runner' genre which was very popular on mobile platforms a year or two ago. Instead of a man leaping stylishly across rooftops, though, Harold features a lanky nerd blundering across twelve tracks in the vague hope of finding the end while still in possession of all four rubbery plant-like limbs.
As in most infinite runners, you have no direct control over Harold himself aside from making him jump. Instead, you must manipulate tricks and traps along the way to keep him in the race. These actions range from simple elements like moving platforms or lowering bridges, to things more specific to the race environment, such as sweeping away mirages in the desert, or hitting crocodiles on the head with a mallet – yes, really – in the jungle. Along the way you're encouraged to collect golden rings, which give you access to a temporary speed boost – essential if you intend on winning any races.
These actions are all accomplished with a controller. In fact, the game outright won't let you play unless you plug one in – something to keep in mind if you're expecting keyboard controls. The developers meekly offer that the analogue nature of some of the actions means they can't possibly add any other control method, but it seems like a shaky excuse at best, and I hope they consider finding a solution at a later date.
Above all, Harold prizes quick reactions, even on the early levels. If you want to avoid a succession of embarrassing deaths, you'll need to be able to quickly assess the situation and keep poor Harold moving in the right direction. This is no mean feat, as the game throws constant curve-balls from the off, combining traps in devious ways, and giving almost no room at all for error. It's frustrating, to be sure, and definitely not for those who like to look before they leap.
Fortunately, making a mistake doesn't necessarily mean the end of your race. After an injury, Harold will merrily reappear, adding nothing more than a minor time delay to your run. Plunge him into doom too often, though, and you will get booted back to the start of the race. There's only so much a guardian angel can do, it would seem.
Excellent challenge for dedicated players. Gorgeous animated style. Unique concept.
Requires superhuman reflexes. Small number of levels. Gamepad-only controls.