Harold: An Animated Game

What would happen if you took some of the animation industry’s best artists, and put them to work on a platformer video game? Moon Spider Studio’s Harold, that’s what.

Never heard of Moon Spider Studio? Me neither. That’s okay. Harold is their very first game. Moon Spider has a mixture of veteran game makers and animators, along with up-and-comers. The company was founded in 2009, and boasts animators from the likes of Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks Animation, Studio Ghibli, and more. All that pedigree is working on something kinda special.

Harold puts you in the role of a guardian angel named Gabe, watching out for the titular nerd as he races through through a series of obstacle courses. It’s a side-scroller where instead of controlling the runner, you manipulate the environment. The video above shows off the unique, fast-paced gameplay mechanics, where Harold runs through his environment, racing against NPCs. Periodically, ghostly hands or other contraptions appear, which give you the opportunity to help clumsy Harold to avoid pratfalls and traps, while also hindering the progress of his opponents.

The video makes me wonder how the game is controlled, exactly. Moon Spider says that Harold is being made for “consoles and PCs,” but the interface, with its switches to flip, rotors to turn, and lots of other motion-centric controls, obviously seems to lend itself to Wii, Move, or Kinect controllers. It also strikes me as a mechanic perfectly suited to touchscreen devices like the iPad, but Moon Spider hasn’t announced any handheld console plans yet.

Another unique aspect of Harold is how it mixes traditional animation techniques with platform gaming. (The Act, an excellent recent iOS game, used the same approach for a more story-driven game.) Just watching the trailer, you can see how classic animation sensibilities are built into the characters’ movement, as well as the interactive objects in the game world. Watch how Harold’s feet turn into super-fast-spinning pinwheels when he runs as fast as he can — an obvious homage to Road Runner and any number of other cartoon characters. Most impressive is how fluid the animation is. Whatever happens to Harold, or whatever choices he makes — to run, jump, or slide — it all happens with smooth transitions from one action to the next, without any jarring jump-cuts.

In the works since the studio was founded in 2009, Harold will make his big debut next year on consoles and PCs (most likely as a downloadable title). Moon Spider Studio will show off the game next week at PAX Prime (Booth #129) in Seattle.

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Robin Parrish

Unathletic, uncoordinated tall man with endless creativity stampeding through his overactive brain. Comes with beard, wife, and two miniature humans. Novelist. General blogger and main Gaming Geek for ForeverGeek. Lead Blogger, Apple Gazette.

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