When it comes to games as a storytelling medium, there are a lot of one-note titles that lean into a genre and stick to it. Comedy is just comedy, drama is just drama and the list goes on. There are titles that are such a cohesive and immersive experience that it can surpass the best books and movies. A title like Horace doesn’t come around often, it’s a game that really makes you feel things. Going into this, I really just thought it was going to be a one note platformer that really just filled a gap for 30 minutes or so. What I found was an immensely charming, thought provoking experience not only in the gameplay, but in the story as well. Looks can really be deceiving, but Horace is a game that utilizes every aspect of the retro stylings to their full potential, while still providing tight gameplay that feels satisfying to complete.
Horace is mainly a story based game. For the first few chapters, we are introduced to our protagonist and his capabilities, and play through tutorial segments that thoroughly introduce us to not only the skills Horace (the protagonist) has, but the family and the world surrounding him. This is all done in an incredibly witty way with well written cutscenes, all narrated by Horace. The characters introduced in the earlier chapters are all funny and interesting in their own right, and as the game goes on you only learn more about them and have them fleshed out. There are really cheeky cutscenes involving some of them, with some more mature-leaning jokes. On the subject of the game’s jokes, there are actually a LOT of them. They don’t really feel hamfisted either, which is the best part. Every joke or reference is neatly placed and is funny for the moment, and left as is. This isn’t a game that really lays down the comedy thick, and that’s a good thing. These small bits of comedy are contrasted by general existentialism. As you really get into the meat of the game, Horace is a very thought-provoking title, and through adventuring and meeting new people, our protagonist learns more about how to find meaning in a very unsure and unstable world.
The visuals and gameplay are top notch for a retro title. Horace is a basic platformer at the start, but the true shine comes later as you get more upgrades. The most major upgrade is the ability to switch gravity. This changes the game entirely, and stages become two way platformers that you have to navigate differently depending on what surface you’re standing on. This goes for building momentum and jumping too, as you’ll have to see which corner to round so you can make it safely to the next wall and latch on to it. While it can be disorienting at first to keep swinging the camera around as you jump around and latch onto different surfaces, easing into it and figuring out your path first eases this by a lot. Jumping around and landing every which way to complete platforming puzzles is incredibly satisfying, and it is only aided by the beautiful environments you traverse. At first, everything is self contained in the mansion and jumping around linear environments. What Horace does incredibly well is playing through the same setting at different times of day to give them a different feel, as well as using events and obstacles to change how and where you traverse through the mansion. The best of these, I felt, was a timed mission during a holiday. Most of the mansion was blocked off and you had to traverse a brand new area that was riddled with obstacles, making you really think about your path forward. Not only are these levels a really rewarding feeling departure from the norm, they can be really funny too! As the difficulty scales up in Horace, everything you’ve learned feels like it’s coming together in a very satisfying way. Learning new mechanics doesn’t feel like a chore, and there’s ample time to learn in the levels new mechanics are introduced.
Horace is quite honestly a game I couldn’t put down after playing it for the first time. It really wasn’t only entertaining at the start, it had me fully invested in the development of a cast of characters I came to thoroughly enjoy. The humor hit its mark really well, and the cutscenes were incredibly well done for a retro styled game. The styling of this game can be deceptive, as Horace is a game that will really make you think and feel. While some might not be into retro platformers, I wholeheartedly recommend Horace as a must play if you do. It’s been a very long time since a game has made me think like Horace has, and I think a little platforming fun is something everyone can come to enjoy.
Score: 9 out of 10
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch