Featured at E3 2021 Tribeca Games Spotlight, Harold Halibut was hard to miss.
This story-based adventure game stands out for its fantastic art style; it appears to be an entirely stop-motion animation, like an interactive production by Aardman. But the Tribeca Games Spotlight shed some light on how the game, currently in development by Slow Bros., came about.
It’s not really stop-motion, although real hand-made models were used to create the characters to begin with. The backdrops are also handcrafted, giving everything you see on screen a gorgeous style that stands out from the crowd. It is not at all a style of animation that we see very often in video games. But the character models and sets were then digitized in 3D, allowing them to come to life in the gaming world without using traditional stop-motion animation techniques. Motion capture was even used for the characters, making their movements as realistic as possible.
The final effect is fascinating; to see these clay models come to life in such a way is breathtaking. This is helped by the beauty of the decorations; wandering around Agora Arcade, for example, a row of in-game shops, is a wonder to see. Cardboard storefronts light up with neon signs. It looks like you can reach for the screen and touch it.
The production values are further bolstered by the fact that every character is excellent voiced by a talented cast. The result is a world that feels alive, and for that reason alone Harold Halibut immediately caught my attention. But does this magnificent piece of art work like a game? It remains to be seen.
After a one-hour hands-on demonstration with Harold Halibut, I’m even more in love with his appearance. But I’m not yet completely convinced by its storytelling or gameplay. The game takes place on a huge spaceship, located in the future where Earth is no longer habitable. Harold works in a laboratory aboard the ship, where he helps the senior scientist in his quest to find a new habitable planet.
It looks like some major twists should appear in the narrative, but my time with the demo allowed me to talk to a handful of characters, explore the ship, and go back and forth to convey messages. It at least gave me an excuse to soak up the wonderful design of each set and meet some of the original characters aboard the spaceship. But it remains to be seen if the gameplay will be enough to keep players engaged.
Harold Halibut is a slow-paced adventure game with a lot of exploration, interaction, and communication needed. But games like this require a great storytelling to keep players hooked. I haven’t seen that yet Harold Halibut. I remain hopeful – the game is still in development (we don’t have a release date yet) and the demo hasn’t given the story time to kick off. The hard work of Slow Bros. To bring this game to life however deserves to shine, and I really hope the completed tale does incredible justice to the animation.