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Horace


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HoraceArceusAsimov's robots may have had three basic rules, but those are still three more than the main and title character, Horace, is endowed with in the first game from author, developer, coder, and pretty-much-everything-else Paul Helman. Magically emerging into the world with his own consciousness, Horace explores everything with an endearing combination of curiosity and naivety. After five years (or is it now six?), Paul is ready to share the fruits of his indie labor with you - and if you can believe it, it's only going to get better for the future, full version!

Horace is introduced into the world alongside a quaint, old-fashioned family with a kind and loving demeanor. He is somewhat confused at what he is seeing at first, but the father figure ("old man") never tires of patiently explaining things and teaching him. Many of the early-on rooms are heavy on the storytelling, with a generous amount of cutscenes sprinkled between them. Horace does a fantastic job incorporating a compelling storyline with these cutscenes, as well as personifying the robot.

Despite making terrific progress, it's not all smooth sailing at first for him. All that Horace wants is to become a real boy, but his "sister" Heather has some serious reservations. One fateful day, a terrible accident befalls her. Even worse, the ground is too fragile and the situation too perilous for a human to navigate. Horace eagerly volunteers himself, but not before the old man gives him a gentle warning: Heather doesn't have "infinite lives" and she won't survive if he isn't gentle with her.

As Paul describes, the current version is a demo of sorts. It progresses fairly linearly through the story, but there are a few chunks where things are skipped over. Consequently, the learning curve does take a few sharp upward bumps, which can snap you out of it if you had been lulled out of complacency. Horace does offer some level of checkpoints, so you won't have to restart a huge chunk of the story if you happen to perish, but you can still find yourself having to redo some tricky bits, particularly towards the end of the game. In the end, I suppose I didn't particularly mind it - it was an interesting challenge, and one that required several attempts and breaks to beat - but was rather satisfying when I finished it.

Many of the controls are introduced as the game goes along, but the old standard are still there: use WASD to move around and space to jump. Later on, you'll see chains that you can climb up by using the up arrow. Perhaps most important, though, is being able to flip the 2D arena around by bumping into the walls, and shifting the whole scene by an angle. This will prove critical in later scenes.

Go ahead and check out the story of robot companion Horace - at times happy, sad, rejected, accepted, and everything in between. The story was personally my favorite half to this game, but there's still a solid platforming aspect to it as well, especially in the latter half. And meanwhile, just maybe the robot will discover something of a family of its own.


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