Bottom Line: Horace is such a good game on so many levels. It is a challenging platformer adventure game with elements of Metroidvania games and gorgeous pixel art, but it also tells a story that is funny, charming, and emotional.
Rich and emotional story
Clever level design
Charming humor and pixel art
Difficulty might be too high for some
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Forgive me if I roll my eyes when I'm presented with another 16-bit indie platformer. While the genre is by no means lacking in great games, it's easy for great ones to get lost among the mediocrity. This is especially true when shopping on the Nintendo Switch eShop, a storefront that's notoriously bloated from shovelware and the like. So when I was presented with Horace, my expectations were rightfully muted.
Truthfully, you wouldn't be blamed if you saw Horace and passed over it as just another 16-bit indie platformer. I know I would've — Horace is just about as unassuming as they come. But after spending about 10 hours with the titular gold-plated robot, I was floored. Not only by the gameplay variety and challenging platforming, but the surprisingly charming, funny, and emotional story that the game tells. Horace is great. Really great. And it's never felt more at home than on the Nintendo Switch.
Horace review: What I loved about Horace
What is so striking about Horace is that just when you think you know what to expect, something new is presented, either in its story or in its gameplay. At the start of the game, we meet Horace as he is booted up for the first time, brought in by a wealthy family to act as a butler. The first hour of Horace is slow and meticulously paced as you're introduced to characters and gameplay mechanics. At a certain point, the game flips the script, and Horace finds himself on a quest to reunite with his family.
|Platforms||Nintendo Switch, Steam|
|Game Size||5.6 GB|
Horace is a story about nostalgia, and nostalgia buoys the narrative from its innocent beginning to its heart-wrenching conclusion. Horace features constant references to pop-culture, with a heavy emphasis on British culture. It never feels out of place, however, and the references are meant to evoke emotion rather than just a "I understood that reference" throwaway gag that sometimes plagues modern media. It echoes deeper feelings of familiarity that Horace is so desperately searching for. It's a powerful metaphor that elevates Horace from just another platformer to a master class in storytelling.
Horace is not without laughs, however, and its British cheekiness rings true throughout the game. The cast of characters Horace comes in contact with are charming and memorable, and their arcs are compelling and rich. This is not commonplace for indie platformers, and I haven't been taken aback by a narrative like this since Celeste.
But if it's not fun, why bother?
And just like Celeste, Horace is a very difficult and very fun game. What starts as a basic run of the mill platformer, transforms as the game goes on, and soon you'll be running through obstacles as you defy gravity to solve puzzles. Horace is more than just a platformer though, as there are elements of adventure games, Metroidvania, and a healthy amount of mini-games thrown into the mix to incentivize exploration. Horace is motivated by his goal to collect over one million pieces of junk, and while it's not necessary to complete the game, collecting junk scratches the itch that fans of collectathons might need scratched.
As mentioned prior, Horace is a demanding platformer, but it takes measures necessary to ensure that it's never too unfair. You have an infinite amount of lives, and checkpoints are plenty, never sending you too far back from where you died. Respawns are also quick, so when you die (and you will die a lot) you'll be back out in no time. As you advance to the later chapters, you'll also be able to protect yourself from most one-hit kills.
Horace review: What I didn't love about Horace
At its heart, Horace is a story-driven adventure game, and its blend of genres might not appeal to fans outside of its genre. If you come in expecting a pure platformer, you'll be sorely disappointed. Horace is no cup of tea, either, and there were plenty of frustrating moments in my playthrough, especially when you're hoping along walls. The game does an excellent job of keeping track of Horace, but there were moments where the camera flip reversed my controls and I accidentally walked into an obstacle, killing Horace instantly.
The story is also not for those expecting instant gratification. There's actually not much gameplay in the opening hours, and it takes some time before the story really picks up steam. It's well-paced, but the impatient may have an issue with "waiting for something to happen".
It's especially rough when you're stuck at a particularly tough spot and can't progress the story without making it through the increasingly difficult obstacles. Chokepoints like these are few and far between, but noticeably halt the pace of the gameplay and the narrative
A starry eyed tale too good to be missed
A unique blend of C-3PO and Paddington Bear, the robot Horace manages to be endlessly charming from start to finish, and leads a story that is so beautifully told, it rivals the output of triple A developers. This is a game for videogame lovers by videogame lovers, and the effort and care that the two developers put into this game can be seen and felt in every moment spent with Horace.
A few cheap deaths and some slow story beats are no reason to stay away from Horace. It's an indie game with a big heart that charmed me to no end. From its nostalgia-ridden pop culture references to its endlessly clever level design, Horace excels on almost every front. It's truly a tour de force of a game, and one of the best experiences I've had with an indie game this year and one of the best Nintendo Switch games available.
Don't judge a book by its cover.
Horace is an endlessly charming and extremely difficult indie platformer that tells an emotional story through the eyes of a friendly robot. An indie tour de force.
Zackery Cuevas is a writer for Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore. He likes playing video games, talking about video games, writing about video games, and most importantly, complaining about video games. If you're cool, you can follow me on Twitter @Zackzackzackery.