Developed By: Paul Helman Published By: 505 Games Categories: Platformer, Cinematic Release Date: 10.21.20
There always seems to be a bit of an air of contempt for when you use cinematic in conjunction with a videogame. If you want a movie, just watch one, don’t infect games with it, right? I don’t really agree. Cinematic Game is a bit broad of a term, you get games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, The Evil Within, The Last of Us, Another World, Prince of Persia, Oddworld, and the following game, Horace.
Cinematic Platformer are usually defined due to a focus on how animated and realistic movement is in the title. The game usually speak through the environment. With Horace, the game is more a cutscene loaded platformer. The game itself is a fairly regular platformer, but in the first few chapters, I felt as if I had witnessed more cutscenes than actual gameplay. I’m ok with this though. Horace is a beautiful game, with some of the best spritework I’ve seen in an indie game in quite a long time. The cutscenes themselves are emotion, touching, funny, you care about what happens in them. You care about what happens to the people in them. I think it’s hard for a game to actually make you care about it’s characters, but Horace does it. The cutscenes are all narrated by the titular robot, in a monotone British voice. From his inception, to learning how the world works, his family, his purpose in life, the purpose of life. All dialogue is also recited by him, but the emotion you see in the characters and the robot can show the mood and feel. Horace’s ignorance and naivete is wonderfully endearing too as “under a good cause” he’ll be coerced into doing tasks of questionable moral standing, not quite understanding. One instance has you breaking into a house to get back keys to a van that the player…and Horace are lead to believe were stolen from you. This doesn’t quite seem to be the case however the more you see. It all ends with the patron of the house being killed by the touch of Horace, to which leaving him traumatized. as to his knowledge, it was only a cleaning robot. Though soon he’s taught to drum as he’s told music can help when you’re down, with the people around him seeming to care about his feelings, despite just being a robot.
There is a bit of a slow start to the game. As previously mentioned, the first few chapters are quite the showcase of cutscenes, but these first few chapters also can be considered a tutorial. You’re being taught how to function, so from a narrative standpoint, it works. Nothing feels forced. A brand new robot needs to learn to walk, jump, clean, etc… right? The game does feel by the numbers initially with these early levels, but the further you get in the more the game opens up, the more movement options you get, and at the same time, the more you and Horace learn. When you learn to pick up things, it’s contextualized by cleaning the court and playing basketball. Horace is a helper robot, he cleans, your main directive is to clean, a million items to be exact. So one of the main mechanics is picking up junk. Picking it up, regardless of where it is just has a satisfying feel to it and since it does track how much junk is in a set room, I was always pushing myself to grab it all if I could. You can and will die. A lot in fact, everything kills you in one hit. That’s ok though, as you have infinite lives, which is once again explained by the narrative. A mechanic you’ll learn and experience soon into the story is boots that let you defy gravity and walk on the walls and ceilings. This can be a bit disorientating at times as the camera will follow you at every angle change, but if you don’t rush it’s easy to get used to.
There’s a lot of minigames, some only last for a short bit to move the story and some are even replayable whenever at an arcade. All of them referencing or straight up copying some retro or arcade games. A nice drumming session based off of the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games, Horace learning to drive from Pole Position just straight up being installed into him, thus starting a high speed driving sequels, and even Pong being played in the beginning of the game. The arcade is full of classic game ripoffs like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, OutRun, and Track and Field, all filled with 80’s cinema references. Hungry Ghost being Pac-Man mixed with Ghostbusters for instance. Of course, those arcade games need money, which can be earned by doing a small handful of jobs, all being rhythm minigames. At one point you’re even stuck mentally in what’s to be a European Microcomputer console like the ZX Spectrum.
The game is ripe full of references, from TV, to videogames. It feels ingrained the story or not too blatant though, so it never feels annoying. The aforementioned arcade games are 80’s film ingrained arcade games, but if you weren’t familiar, it’s not overtly loud, and if you were familiar, it’s cute. Dialogue mentioning games and films. It never comes off as “REMEMBER ____”, but instead usually just comes natural in a conversation, like a grumpy person calling you Robocop in a derogatory term. I spotted two posters of the live action actors who played Super Mario.
I loved my time with Horace. It’s rare for me to say it, but even with the fun platforming, and really varied gameplay as a whole, the story, the writing, it all kept me wanting to keep moving on and on and I was more invested with it than the story.
Buy Now: $14.99
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*Game Download Code supplied for review purposes