Harold Halibut review — There’s more than fish in the sea

It’s been two and a half centuries since the crew aboard the FEDORA 1 ark ship fled Earth in search of new horizons, but the home they found was less habitable than they had hoped for. Crash landing on a water planet, the citizens on board have had to adapt to life underwater, without access to dry land or the open air. Not all hope is lost, as plans to relaunch the ship back into space have recently come to a head once more. With a dwindling window of opportunity, all members aboard the FEDORA must come together despite their differences to make their dream come true. However, the discovery of new alien life quickly turns everything on its head as they find out they aren’t as alone as they once considered themselves to be.

Submerged in the laboratory district, you play as Harold, a young assistant to the brilliant scientist Jeanne Mareaux. When you’re not busy fixing the pump stations and other handy work aboard the ship, you’ll often be running errands for her or providing support with her latest experiments. Mareaux isn’t the only person who needs your help though, as the other residents will also make sure to keep your hands busy. In typical narrative-adventure game fashion, you’ll spend plenty of time getting to know each of the bright faces aboard the sunken vessel as well as an unfamiliar group of aliens from the deep, whether that’s through completing small tasks for them or tagging along on an adventure. 

The cast is wonderfully voiced, with a wide range of personalities across the board. You’ve got the boisterous and proud Major who keeps would-be ne’er-do-wells in check, the reserved and bored arcade employee Rafi, the eccentric ski and snow gear salesman Slippie, just to name a few. When you’ve lived on a sequestered spaceship your whole life, it certainly helps to get to know one another, and it was satisfying getting to converse with and learn more about everyone I encountered, human or otherwise. One of my personal favorites has to be Captain-At-Large Zoya, the pilot of the FEDORA, or he would be at least if the ship was flight-worthy. While he puts on a brave face for everyone on the ship (his bird Coco included), not everything is as peppy as it seems. He’s struggling to find his place and live up to his title, and helping him overcome his self doubt was an intimate exchange between friends that felt well executed as the days went by. The cast of Harold Halibut is certainly one of the best aspects of the game overall, and I was always looking forward to what strange scenario I might encounter next.

Throughout most of the game, you’re free to explore the FEDORA each day with the use of the All Water tube transit system. These tubes grant access to all sorts of places aboard the ship, including the bustling shops of the Agora Arcades, the quaint yet cozy Social district, various research labs and more. Sure you’ll have objectives to guide you each day, but you really do have the freedom to go wherever you please, and it’s worthwhile to go off the beaten path every now and again. These spaces are populated and lived in, so each time you return to a district on a new day you might find something new, whether that be a small side quest or just a pleasant conversation with an old friend.

While I did enjoy going from place to place and taking in the beautiful scenery, I couldn’t help but wish the quests had a bit more in terms of gameplay. Sure you’ll get the occasional mini-game or unique quest objective, but a lot of your time will be spent doing fetch-quest adjacent work. One of the worst offenders was a side-quest to deliver mail, and while I did enjoy reading through these letters and getting to speak with their recipients about it, it was definitely annoying to have to return to my room in the lab to collect the letters one by one after each delivery. I’m sure Harold could handle holding onto a few pieces of mail at once, but I digress. I never felt like the quest design necessarily got in the way of me enjoying the experience as a whole, but it did make the story feel quite sluggish at times.

Despite this, the visuals always carried the experience regardless. Everything in the game is handmade and scanned-in, creating a magnificently intricate stop-motion aesthetic. Whether it’s the characters themselves, the environments you explore or the objects you interact with, there is so much charm poured into every little detail. Playing through Harold Halibut feels less like a traditional video game and more like exploring a virtual art piece, and while this might not appeal to everyone, I absolutely adored it. Sure it can definitely feel slow at times, especially during longer play sessions, but the incredible art direction always made sure I wasn’t getting bored.  

Whether you’re helping Bridgette examine samples in the energy district or attending a poetry slam with Chris, Harold Halibut tells an intimate story of discovering the meaning of what a home can be. It’s one that while interesting, can admittedly be delivered quite slowly at times. Thankfully this is supported by exquisite visuals, the likes of which I feel like I’ve never seen before in a video game. With plenty of personal stories to discover and odd diversions to enjoy, this is one that’s well worth checking out if you don’t mind the slow rolling.

Editor | Website

Corvo is a writer who loves to explore journalism through video games. Writing and editing reviews for triple-A games and indies alike, he finds his passion within expressing his experiences in a fair and accurate manner. Some of Corvo's favorite games are Destiny 2, Mass Effect, and Disco Elysium.



Harold Halibut

Review Guidelines

Transcending the line between video game and interactive art piece, Harold Halibut explores the meaning of home on an isolated alien water world. While some pacing issues exist within the larger story, the handcrafted visuals that consistently charm alongside an extravagant cast make this a treat for fans of narrative adventures.

Corvo Rohwer

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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