Harold Halibut Review — To Sea and Stars

Harold Halibut is a work of art. Its deep narrative about friendship and the meaning of home is presented with phenomenal stop-motion puppetry.
Harold Halibut Featured

Harold Halibut is a literally handcrafted adventure that delves into the themes of companionship and existence within the confines of a colossal spacecraft submerged beneath an extraterrestrial sea.

Two and a half centuries have passed since the colony ship Fedora I departed from Earth on the brink of destruction, seeking refuge on a hospitable planet to ensure humanity’s survival.

Now, in a deep-sea settlement after an unexpected crash landing, we follow the lives of the residents of Fedora I and their corporate-ruled society. More specifically, we take on the role of the titular Harold, a handyman and forgetful lab assistant to the ship’s principal scientist, Jeanne Mareaux. While many aboard the submerged craft have come to accept their fate, Mareaux remains determined to uncover a means of propelling the vessel from its aquatic confines in search of a drier, more hospitable destination, and she just might have found a way.

It’s impossible to discuss Harold Halibut without first examining the game’s presentation, which you will undoubtedly notice before anything else.

Harold Halibut High Concept
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Harold Halibut is presented in the style of a classic, stop-motion claymation film. The characters all have distinctly clay-looking models, and the set is almost impossibly realistic. When I first stepped into Harold Halibut, I was sure this was just excellently rendered computer graphics, and to my surprise, I was, at least partially, mistaken.

Harold Halibut, at some level, involves actual, real set building and stop-motion. I can’t speak with certainty to how much of the game is filmed with a camera and how much is rendered graphics, but as far as I am aware, the entire experience has been filmed with stop-motion clay models and real, live sets. What can be said without a doubt is that the developers have gone through an incredible labor-intensive process to make something utterly original.

It is hard to understate how impressive Harold Halibut’s cinematic presentation is. You’ll have to see it for yourself in some of the game’s frequent stunning visuals.

Harold Halibut Outsider 1
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

To that extent, Harold Halibut isn’t just a game. It is quite literally a work of art, a visual representation of passion and dedication to a craft that bears fruit each second you spend admiring the intricately woven world and characters of the Fedora I. The artistic nature of the game expands far beyond Harold Halibut’s claymation presentation, however, and leaks into the game’s seemingly engaging writing.

Throughout Harold Halibut, you will be exploring the sunken city-ship of Fedora as the titular Harold, as he goes about his day-to-day tasks, ponders the meaning of his existence, and discovers an incredible secret.

Harold Halibut is all about engaging with the story as it unfolds, learning more about the life of Fedora I, the secrets of your lost home, and the inhabitants of the alien sea you find yourself submerged in. Beyond that, however, Harold Halibut is about the characters you meet along the way, the lives they lived before, in between, and as the story plays out.

Harold Halibut Home
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

I can’t emphasize enough that the characters of Harold Halibut are what make the game and its writing; they are the meat in this big Halibut sandwich. Each character feels, for lack of a better term, real to an extent that is deeply commendable and almost eerie. I wouldn’t be at all shocked to find out that many of the Fedora I’s residents are based on real people.

None are more interesting than Harold Halibut himself. The ship’s handyman and lab assistant, Harold, tells the story of a character deeply dissatisfied with his role in life, curious about what more there is to discover, and eager to help those around him who need help. He is a profoundly relatable character. In an early part of the game, he had to listen to a lecture about how he struggled to pay attention in class, staring out a window while disinterested in everything around him. As someone growing up with ADHD, I saw a lot of myself in Harold, and he was, by far, the emotional glue that kept me stuck to the story.

Harold Halibut is designed to keep you bouncing between these characters, soaking in their interactions with our protagonist as he goes about his day-to-day tasks and tries to help get the Fedora I back into space. This is the game’s strength and the source of its greatest weakness.

Harold Halibut Tech
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

That is, there isn’t a lot of actual gameplay to Harold Halibut. It is a narrative, character, and cinematic experience designed to keep you enthralled by the story and the humorous interaction between characters. The occasional minigame breaks up the monotony of walking back and forth between places but are otherwise uncomplicated distractions.

Unfortunately, this can lead to many slow moments in Harold Halibut, where you’re either unsure where to go next or are simply tasked with walking about the expanse of the Fedora I’s locations, looking for the next colonist to talk to.

The idea, of course, is that the next character interaction will be worth the wait. And for many, it will. I can safely say that Harold Halibut will see a sea (pun intended) of die-hard fans who adore the crew of the Fedora I and can’t get enough of the game and its story. The use of incredibly sci-fi concepts (at least, incredible to me), such as Catalytic Bacteria powering the ship’s engine, will also be enough to suck players in.

In short, if you like what Harold Halibut is serving, you’re gonna keep coming back for seconds.

Harold Halibut Energy
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

For others, however, the game’s dry humor and long bouts of dialogue won’t be enough to hold their attention. While you can certainly appreciate Harold Halibut for the phenomenal animation and set designs, your ability to enjoy the game will be deeply rooted in how much you appreciate the game’s characters and writing style.

For some, Harold Halibut will be a classic to remember. For others, you may be best off finding something a little more mechanically stimulating. What is undeniable, however, is that Harold Halibut is a true work of art, a cinematic expression of talent, dedication, and love for the artist’s craft, and something truly worth remembering.

The Final Word

While not your most traditional “game,” Harold Halibut is without a doubt a true work of art, something the likes of which we haven’t seen before and are unlikely to see again.

10

Try Hard Guides received a PC review code for this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Harold Halibut is available on Steam, Xbox, and PlayStation.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

Comments

Leave a Comment

All comments go through a moderation process, and should be approved in a timely manner. To see why your comment might not have been approved, check out our Comment Rules page!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.