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Capsule Review: Horace

An inventive but difficult platformer with a rich story which you won't get to experience unless you are really good at precision platforming.

A story-heavy precision platformer with Metroidvania and puzzle elements. This combination means the game’s audience is much smaller than it otherwise could have been, as you need to have interest in the game’s story and enjoy figuring out how to apply your abilities to traverse the levels and have the ability to do so with the precision required.

The game’s first hour or so is an extended story sequence introducing its characters and world, punctuated by occasional short and easy platforming challenges. The player character, Horace, narrates his existence as a robot being raised by a near-future posh British family. I was quite charmed by the characters and storytelling and found the platforming fine, if nothing special, so I was on board - but anyone who didn’t engage with the story would need a lot of patience to get through this. After all this setup, the game proper begins. The world starts opening up, the gameplay-to-story ratio takes a dramatic upturn, and difficulty increases significantly.

The platforming becomes much deeper as you get additional abilities, starting with gravity-changing boots that allow you to walk on walls and ceilings and also fall sideways and upwards. Getting through areas becomes a puzzle as you need to figure out the right path to take and how to get on that path. But on top of this, there are increasing numbers of deadly hazards that will instantly kill you if you make a mistake. Similar to Celeste, you both need to figure out how to traverse an area and execute that traversal with a high degree of precision, with failure meaning a quick restart of that area.

Unfortunately, Horace lacks Celeste's Assist Mode, so there’s no way around the very high skill requirement. As a result, Horace is a game that lures you in with its story, and then suddenly requires spatial reasoning and precise timing to access more of that story. If you’re interested in all of these things, there’s a good chance you’ll fall in love with Horace; otherwise I’d expect you to either be bored or frustrated.

I Stopped Playing When: I had a good time with the game’s first hour but found the second hour increasingly frustrating. I kept going for a while because I liked the characters so much and wanted to see what happened, but the Chapter Four boss finally broke me and I decided I could just see what happened on YouTube.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.