Harold Halibut is a beautiful indie game with stop-motion graphics, but unfortunately doesn't offer much in terms of challenging gameplay

Make no mistake, Harold Halibut's beautiful stop-motion graphics is a feast for the eyes. But you'd have to look elsewhere if you want challenging gameplay.

Although a feast for the eyes, Harold Halibut's slow pace and lack of challenging tasks may make it difficult for some to stay for the ride. (Photo: Slow Bros.)
Although a feast for the eyes, Harold Halibut's slow pace and lack of challenging tasks may make it difficult for some to stay for the ride. (Photo: Slow Bros.)

It’s such a shame that this game with stop-motion graphics that took 14 years to make has a great story, and beautiful graphics, but offers too little of a challenge.

Harold Halibut is beautiful to look at, despite not having the hyper-realistic graphics that games like Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth offer.

For one, the game's graphics are crafted by hand. Every character, object, and set had to be meticulously brought to life in the physical world before being scanned into the digital realm.

Stop-motion animation itself is a painstaking endeavour; each subtle movement of a character necessitates capturing multiple frames, whether it's the slight movement of lips or the sweeping gestures of hands.

This meticulous process, demanding an extraordinary level of attention to detail, is further intensified when applied to the expansive scope of a video game.

The game also draws the type of players that love slow, relaxed games that unveil an interesting story.

Speaking of the story, Harold Halibut is set in the distant future where a spaceship called the FEDORA fled Earth during the Cold War and crashed into an ocean planet.

Players step into the role of Harold, a hand-painted handyman working in the ship’s science wing.

Initially, gameplay revolves around mundane tasks like maintenance, but Harold's routine is disrupted when an alien visitor arrives, setting off an intriguing adventure.

However, it doesn’t have enough going for those who seek any sort of challenge in a game.

Yes, there’s some clever dialogue and some witty banter here and there, but most of your playtime is spent on slow dialogue and simple tasks.

In fact, it made me wonder why Harold was complaining about just two very easy tasks for an entire day on his first day.

And somehow, during the first few hours of playing, I found myself literally dozing off, waiting for something, anything to happen.

That “something” only kicked in about two hours into the gameplay, after you’ve done menial tasks, got into trouble you weren’t involved in, reasoned with an unreasonable law enforcer, helped solve marriage issues, and more.

For the most part, I felt like I was coasting along, constantly pressing the action button or the next button, for something easy with no actual reward.

With the plot, and the mysterious underwater world, there's so much potential that Harold Halibut could explore — scary sea monsters [or even just a huge fish to defeat], navigating through dangerous currents, getting into conflict with some fish folk, discovering rare collectibles and more.

However, that isn't what the core gameplay is. Because, unlike most traditional adventure games, Harold Halibut lacks an inventory system or complex puzzles to solve.

While there are occasional simple mini-games like navigating a surveillance camera through vents or using a screwdriver on a 3D printer, the primary focus is on advancing the story through conversations with characters.

And, if you’re one to enjoy such a pace and unveil a story, you might still feel rewarded with the quirky characters you meet, the dry humour, the mystery behind All Water, and more, all painstakingly handcrafted into a beautiful, colourful world under the sea.

Given all these, however, it felt more like a point-and-click interactive storybook, rather than an actual game—which is something that isn’t for me because it would have been better to watch a movie about Harold's adventures instead.

Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee.

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