The last week or two I’ve been doing one thing in my spare time – I was playing a game called Horace. Initially, I was a little unsure. While it ticks a lot of my boxes – it’s made by an English indie dev, supposedly has a good story and has some absolutely terrific pixel art – there was one aspect that worried me. It was a platform game. After playing a lot of Super Mario Maker 2, I’ve come to accept that I’m actually terrible at platform games. However, despite my trepidation, I made my mind up and decided to give it a whirl. What’s the worst that could happen?
Horace is a game about a robot who has just been created. At the start of the game, you play as he learns how to move around and jumps around an obstacle course created by an ‘old man’, who treats you as his son. The core of the game is a platformer, and for the most part, the platforming sections are what I would call “doable”. They’re all very well designed, and give you the option of returning back at a later date to do further exploration when you’ve learned a bit more about the game, or unlocked a new ability. Tacking onto that, they also have a lot of variety stuffed into an indie game which is retailing at a tenner. Every stage is absolutely gorgeous as well, with loads of detail crammed into every scene. It’s all set in a fictional version of England, so the replication of all the things that are so familiar to me in pixel form is fantastic.
I mentioned there is a lot of variety in the level designs, and that is very true. But that would only be possible with a lengthy story to go with it, and Horace definitely ticks that box. It’s not some humdrum story either. Horace is an extremely touching, well written and incredibly gripping. I won’t write any spoilers ahead, but there were so many times where I actually felt something when the story was playing out. Sorrow, happiness and, the most prevailing emotion I felt from the game was utter mirth at the events going on in front of me. The writer of the story has wedged in as many pop culture references from when I was a child, as well as some other things, that just made me laugh out loud more than any game ever has. I’d even go as far to say that this story touched my soul more than I expected. By the end of it, I was desperate to get my own little Horace.
It’s surprising just how many mini games and hidden content are in Horace as well. Rather than just sticking to a story and getting you to plod along a linear path with it, you can take a break at any time. Revisit old stages to collect up some junk to sell, or hit the arcade and play some wonderfully recreated versions of popular arcade classics from the past. You had a Pac Man clone, a Space Invaders clone and even a clone of the downhill snowboarding game. Another thing I noted, which I’m not sure would be possible to locate if you use the suggested controller, is there is even a Ceefax clone in the game. I stumbled upon it completely by accident, but I found numerous pages that each had me crying with laughter.
In need of a tune up
If I really think about it, there is one thing that I can say I disliked about Horace – at the start you get a good introduction to the game. Basic mechanics, and it slowly builds you up over about an hour to give you a good feel for the game. After that, you’re on your own. Even when new mechanics are introduced or mini games are played. The minigames are the worst offender as there is no real indication for what is about to happen. You’ll quickly learn that the three that you need to complete in order to earn a bit of money are rhythm games, where you basically just have to press a button in time with the tune. There are also visual clues, but it’s slightly easier to go by music. Except in one of the games, where you can’t test out the controls beforehand and just have to react. Which confused the hell out of me, and I ended up managing a grand total of one item out of thirty. It’s the only aspect that I felt took a minor shine off an otherwise magnificent game.
The Final Word
Horace is as good as it gets. If it had a bit more of a tutorial after the initial hour, I’d be giving it a perfect score. Horace is the best indie game I’ve played
in a very long time, and already is at the top of my Game of the Year list. If I play a better game than Horace this year, I’ll be very surprised. It’s a must have.