Harold Halibut’s stop motion aesthetic shows how everything old can become new again

The term ‘everything old is new again’ has never seemed so appropriate in gaming as with the upcoming release of Slow Bros’ Harold Halibut. Using stop motion techniques, its old-school appearance makes it stand out from the crowd and, perhaps unintentionally, makes it seem fresh and new.

I appreciate games are no strangers to dipping into the past and giving it a modern spin. However, that usually involves leaning into nostalgia by using 8 or 16-bit graphics. Here, if anything, Harold Halibut wants to evoke memories of old TV shows and movies like Wallace and Gromit rather than retro gaming classics.

Harold Halibut is a labor of love

Of course, it’s not alone in this approach. 1995’s The Dark Eye and the yet-to-be-released Vokabulantis also use stop motion animation. However, it still makes Harold Halibut something of a rare breed, helping it stand out from the crowd with an unusual look for a game that’s undeniably a labor of love.

To achieve the stop motion aesthetic, the developers had to create everything in the real world. That’s everything from the characters to the sets they wander around in. After that, they used a 3D scanner to transfer these props into the game alongside motion-capturing movements to bring the cast to life. It’s certainly not the traditional dev cycle.

So, what’s it all about?

While Harold Halibut’s development is intriguing, a terrific art style means nothing if the game isn’t interesting. Thankfully, it has an enticing premise, although, naturally, we can’t speak on the quality of the whole story until we get our hands on it later this month.

You play as the titular Harold Halibut, who lives on an ark-like spaceship called the FEDORA. It doesn’t travel across the galaxy anymore, though, after ending up submerged on an alien planet. It’s fair to say that finding a new home for humanity didn’t go too well. 

While most of the FEDORA’s populace has accepted their new lifestyle, lead scientist Jeanne Mareux refuses to give up on the original dream. As her lab assistant, Harold is involved in her plans to find a way out from beneath the watery depths and back into space.

A spaceship under the ocean

In true video game fashion, we can expect our hero to get wrapped up in some shenanigans that will help realize Jeanne Mareux’s dreams. Now, while that might not appeal to everyone, a good stranded sci-fi set-up certainly appeals to me.

Based on the trailers I’ve seen – in addition to the developer’s own description – don’t expect an entirely serious story. The narrative promises to sprinkle in some humor alongside all the drama that unfolds, bringing some levity to the seemingly perilous situation. You can also expect themes of friendship to pop up throughout, which hopefully matches the cozy vibes the stop motion graphics give me.

So, that’s the story. In terms of gameplay, you can expect a modern take on a point-and-click adventure, focusing more on the adventuring and less on the pointing and clicking. That means you will spend a lot of your time exploring the world and chatting to the FEDORA’s numerous citizens. 

And crucially, they’re all voiced. While that may seem like a small detail to some, it can add a lot to an experience, so long as the acting is of a good standard. Reading reams of text is fine sometimes, but it doesn’t always allow personality to shine through in the way a voiced performance can.

Harold Halibut will launch on Steam, Xbox, and PlayStation on April 16th.

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This Article was written by: Stephen Gregson-Wood