I previously started playing Horace on the iPad via a Steam Link from Windows on my Mac, but although I persevered using this setup for the whole of Lair of the Clockwork God, Horace’s tricky platforming needed something a bit more so a couple of hours in I stopped playing. Not that I hadn’t enjoyed it, just I thought I’d wait for a console version.
And here it is!
Firstly, let me get one thing out of the way. On the PC, Horace was rated as a 16 certificate. I’d not come across much to justify that on my brief time with that version, but I was a little surprised the Switch version was a PEGI 7. Imagine how horrified I was to find that this cute little platformer with retro pixel graphics contained All The Big Swears (Even the Worst One), gore, and execution-style murderings. In a PEGI 7 game. Sure, some (but not all!) of the swearing is bleeped, but it’s only a small part of the word bleeped so it’s clear what is being said. Now, I’ve nothing against this sort of thing in a game, but here 1) it’s mostly unnecessary, but worse, 2) it’s a PEGI 7. Which my daughter was watching me play. Not good.
Aside from that (and if it was a PEGI 16 I’d not have an issue), it’s good. Very, very good. Through the story of Horace the Sentient Robot, who lives with a well-to-do family until The Event and then what happens to him afterwards, there’s gravity twisting platforming galore with All of the Referenced to Other Things. Characters right out of 70s sitcoms, soaps, other video games, music references, film parodies – there’s a reference in almost every scene somewhere and spotting them becomes a game in itself.
The platforming, with stick-to-walls-and-ceilings shoes that rotate the whole room as you flip surface makes up the majority of the gameplay, but there’s some exploring, the middle third of the game is almost a Metroidvania (complete with automap), and there are what appear at first to be impossible bosses but once you get their patterns they’re pretty easy – the best sort of bosses.
There are also plenty of minigames, with more references, both as part of the story and as sideshows. There’s an arcade with games like a Ferris Bueller-themed Out Run clone, Space Invaders where each level the baddies are dancers from such things as Thriller and Fame, and a Ghostbusters/Pac-man mash-up. There are also rhythm games where you can earn money.
As well as the main story (which eventually becomes Save The World), Horace has a Quest given to him – clean one million things. In true Jet Set Willy fashion, the whole world is filled with junk and Horace gets a better ending if he manages to collect at least this many items of it. You also sell the junk for big wads of cash to buy upgrades from the shopkeeper from Mr Benn. No, really.
If all this wasn’t enough, then let me tell you just how damn big the game is. It took me 13 hours to complete, which sure, isn’t Assassin’s Creed Origins money, but this is a retro style 2D platformer and just imagine Chuckie Egg 2 being 13 hours long!
Horace is outstanding, and even more so when you realise the entire game was developed by only 3 or 4 people. There are so many ideas, so many minigames, and such variety, comedy and ideas that it’s hard to see how that is possible. Probably one of the best platformers I’ve ever played, in fact.