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  • Writer's pictureAntal Bokor

Harold Halibut Is Charming, Brilliant, Boring

Screenshot: Harold Halibut

If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson, especially Fantastic Mr. Fox, you might be looking at Harold Halibut and thinking, “wow, that looks really charming.” You’d be right. Harold Halibut is charming as hell - which, apparently, is a prerequisite for something that's stop motion animated.  I’m just not sure it’s a very fun game. To be fair, it advertises itself as more of an interactive narrative adventure. And that’s exactly what it is. If you go in expecting not much else you might still be turned away by its tedium, however.

In Harold Halibut you play as the hapless, titular protagonist. He has a heart of gold and the demeanor of a child. You can’t really blame him: he’s been raised since birth in a spaceship that is trapped underwater, on a planet with an inhospitable atmosphere.

The Fedora I set off from a dying earth to run into problems of its own–and only to find out later that Earth was just fine after all. But at least they have a home to return to now: and that’s the impetus for the story in Harold Halibut. I mean, once the story finally gets going–which takes a fair amount of playtime. 

Screenshot: Harold Halibut

The Fedora I has a limited launch window, and only 90 days to come up with a power source to be able to launch it back into space and towards home. That’s when a fishy alien comes into Harold’s life that might have the answers the crew is looking for.

Harold Halibut is barely a game. It’s an adventure game through and through, and while there are a few minigames to partake in, it has minimal gameplay. You walk around, talk to people and usually fetch things for them. There’s a lot of fetching. So much fetching, in fact, it made Harold Halibut hard for me to play. Most of the gameplay feels like padding for a story that would take less than two hours to tell in any other medium. I would argue that Harold Halibut would almost be better off as a movie.

Screenshot: Harold Halibut

But I can’t deny there are things that make Harold Halibut great, like its strange charm. There’s this prevailing British-ness to the whole game that makes everything seem quaint and whimsical. It’s like you’re seeing the world through Harold’s slightly dim, but innocent perspective.

Harold is a character that is dumped on by others because he is a bit unkempt, a little slow, and has little prestige as a maintenance worker. Harold is very much the sort that just does what he is told and goes with the flow. Eventually he finds, and later befriends, an alien creature named Weeoo. Weeoo lives in a society where everything is shared, and this leaves them open to easy exploitation by the Allwater Corporation, which has an agenda of its own.

Screenshot: Harold Halibut

If you go into Harold Halibut hoping for puzzles like you would find in traditional point and click adventures, there are none of those. You have a PDA that tells you what to do and where to go, but that’s about it. You wander around and have conversations with the strange denizens of the Fedora I as they grapple with their own personal and professional issues. There are a few people trying to look out for their own self interest, but most of the citizens in the Fedora I are just living out their strange existence the best they can.

Harold Halibut has a painfully slow start, and it never really picks up speed. The entire game is a contemplative, sometimes poignant, often silly look at normal people living under strange circumstances. But it’s never really funny, scary, exciting, etc. It is definitely intriguing, and there was a desire for me to see what happened next–but getting there was an excruciating test of patience. And this is from someone who loves story driven, narrative heavy games. I’m not itching to gun things down in every game I play, but if a game is literally making me fall asleep it’s not the experience I’m looking for.

But that doesn’t mean Harold Halibut is a bad game. It’s very impressively constructed. The stop motion animation is brilliant. It has fantastic music, wonderful sound design, and great voice acting through its diverse set of characters. I just wish it didn’t bore me so damn much. But your mileage may vary–if you want to play a beautifully made, delightful adventure game Harold Halibut is a delight.

Harold Halibut is available now for PC via Steam and on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.

A Steam key was given to us for this review.



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