With the popularity of the character Horace only eclipsed by The Hobbit for exposure this year, it was inevitable that a studio would sign up to do some kind of cheap cash-in game this holiday season, and Big Robot’s Carey has stepped up to the task, with original scribe and character creator John Walker contributing an original short story set in Horace’s universe, making this not only a vital game for your Christmas stocking as a gamer, but an important aspect of universe canon too. This is Wot I Think about Horace’s Endless Christmas
Originality of game mechanics are seldom something that a licensed property does well, usually following a lineage pioneered by Ocean Software in the late 80s and early 90s, where an existing run-and-fight game would be palette-swapped and have its sprites replaced to become anything from Batman though The Terminator to that classic example of 90s licencing excess, Scrooge McDuck’s Gonna Cut A Bitch. In this case, the HEC team have gone for a twist on a classic genre, the third person personal labyrinth, or “Tron game”. Eschewing the traditional escalation of complex starting areas, the team opts to make the game field larger and the game longer over successive levels, providing a sense of progression as well as a defined story arc for the return of Horace’s world-defining infinity.
The graphics are entertaining and reflect the detail and care of the main Horace continuity, having been painstakingly recreated by the original artist into computer game form, with a high level of animation and articulation that makes the game a joy to see on screen. The whole caboodle, however, is let down by occasionally twitchy controls, a major issue in a game where turning before you hit the border of the playfield is a game-over. This problem is exasperated by the checkpoint save system, which will only retain your progress on level boundaries, and not let you quick-save in play. A notable absence from an otherwise finely crafted game.
Finally, it would be lax of us not to discuss the Free to Play model the publisher has chosen for distribution. The initial release lacks any kind of restrictions or item shop, but without a cash model the game is surely doomed, and so we shall expect the first DLC drop in the new year, possibly involving some kind of closure and revenge against the mysterious antagonists of this introductory mission set.
So 2013 looks good for fans of the Horace franchise, and at the low, low price of Free we can’t help but recommend Horace despite the occasional control glitch. Go get it now.