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access_time August 22, 2012 at 9:08 AM in PC/Mac by Ramon Aranda

Preview | ‘Harold’ Could Have the Heavenly Touch

Sometimes the most enjoyable games aren’t the ones with 50+ hours of content, but rather the smaller ones who can be played in short bursts and with a lot of replayability.

That may or may not be the case for Harold, which I had a chance to go hands-on with for Xbox Live Arcade (as well as PSN and PC), but from the little bit that I got to play, one thing’s for sure: this game is looking very good. In fact, I literally mean “the game looks good”. Being developed by Moonspider Studio, it’s CEO Loris Malek, who after searching high and low for a place to start the studio, ended up in Miami, has been in the gaming industry for some 10 years as a game designer. His goal, he says for his first title was to come up with something that had gameplay of about 6-8 hours worth, but that had the look and polish of a triple-A title. In doing so, he decided he wanted the game to have the look of a Disney movie; something so well designed, that you’d think it was an animated movie.

After hiring a team of animators, artist and designers from Pixar, DreamWorks and even Disney itself, there’s no doubt that the game does in fact give the appearance of a big time animated flick. Now onto the premise and style of the game…you are a guardian angel who is a student at a guardian angel school and your goal is to get your diploma. In order to do so, you have entered into a race, which requires you to assist a human (who has no idea you’re helping) finish the race. Unfortunately for you, you have chosen the absolute worse runner you could have possibly picked – Harold. Now Harold is quite fleet footed but stupid as hell and it’ll be your challenge to help this goofy-looking bastard not only make it to the finish line, but try to beat out the other five runners.

Each ‘level’ features a whole host of obstacles for you to overcome; ranging from platforms, pits, swinging ropes and more. With 12 stages in all (across 4 themed worlds), you’ll have to manipulate the environment to help Harold advance. For instance, you may need to move a platform so he doesn’t fall into a pit, or maybe you need to give him a burst of speed, or even knock down a wall to allow him to continue. Of course you can also manipulate things to knockout the other runners, though you have to keep Harold in mind as cutting someone’s rope to send them crashing down, could leave Harold without a rope to swing on. That’s just a minor example but with each level practically begging you to try and explore every little area to find the quickest method of finishing, you’ll have a lot of trial and error.

Fortunately when you die, you’ll continue where you left off, though not only will you have to make sure you don’t fall into a gaping hole, but you’ll need to be weary of your health meter. In fact, you’ll pick up these wing rings along the way, which not only serve as your health but also let you give Harold a boost run, so you’ll have to be strategic as to when to use them for boosts. In addition, you can skip ahead to an upcoming area (or screen) to setup Harold for his next moves. I must say that the game’s artwork is so gorgeous that at times I found myself distracted by the living world around me that I forgot what I was doing and let poor Harold fall on his face. Aside from the great looking art and animation, the game also features a 30-person gospel that sings during the game; dynamically changing to what is going on during your playthrough.

The game will also feature online leaderboards , which also allow you to record your playthrough of any stage, which I can only imagine will spawn a ton of speed runs online. While the premise of the game seems simple, each race is seemingly different from the rest, and players will have to think really hard and strategize how they want to approach each one. With a fantastic design, not only in art but of each stage, Harold may prove to be one of the more addicting online offerings we’ve seen in a while, when it debuts sometime in 2013.

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