Horace (Zero Punctuation)
Horace (Zero Punctuation)

Well, as Mrs. Hitler must have thought as
she fucked up her first attempt to shoot herself, you’d think I’d be used to disappointment
by now. As a game critic who, despite the industry’s
best efforts, maliciously and persistently remembers when games were good and not about
fully embodying the concept of the banality of evil, disappointments strew my path like
a shiny carpet made of every condom that was ever overoptimistically stored in a wallet
and eventually had to be thrown out when they went a bit manky. But this was a week for new flavours of disappointments. My attention was drawn to a new indie game,
and shortly after I started playing, I was hooked by its unique charm and the staggering
amount of effort that must have gone into it. I couldn’t understand why the game didn’t
have more exposure. Yes, it was swimming in the eternal ocean-sized
grease trap that is the Steam indie game market, but the really interesting new titles usually
find a way to break surface. Maybe I could be the one to bring it the exposure
it deserves. And then all the little indie game developing
pixies will carry me shoulder high and finally acknowledge me as their god. That was day one. After two weeks I still hadn’t finished the
game and had realised that I completely didn’t want to play any more of the bloody thing. Which, if all you future game critics are
taking notes, is what we professionals call a ‘con.’ So the game we’re talking about is Horace,
just in case you got to this video by randomly clicking the screen or some other method that
precludes reading the fucking title, and of all the games on Steam that carry the user
tag “Story Rich”, Horace is one of the few that deserves it. It’s riding a fucking story limo down story
street, braying with laughter and flicking crumpled dollar bills to the story crack whores. The story concerns, predictably enough, Horace,
a sentient robot who is raised by an eccentric English scientist, and for the first part
of the game we watch them develop from trembling newborn to beloved family member through strategic
use of pixel art platforming, the effect being somewhere between Bicentennial Man and Fantasy
World Dizzy. Horace bears something of a resemblance to
Fantasy World Dizzy, which might have been what made the game speak to me so much. That and the dense number of references to
retro British television, which might make it a bit niche. I appreciate an Auf Wiedersehen Pet reference,
but I wonder how much of the Steam user base would. Anyway, Horace’s life with his family is just
a touch too harmonious, so obviously disaster strikes, Horace is shut down and wakes up
years later to find everyone gone and the country a war-torn dystopia, and from here
the combination of retro British quaintness and harsh, violent cynicism lends an almost
Kubrickian, Clockwork Orange-y sort of vibe to proceedings, all seen through the filter
of Horace’s childlike naivete, as he narrates everything with a synthesised voice reminiscent
of a ten year old reading aloud their deconstructive essay on the Very Hungry Caterpillar, and
it only makes the shiny little bastard more endearing. So the all-important question – having gotten
me onboard, how does Horace fuck it up? Well, mainly in the gameplay, as the same
care with which the story and cutscenes were crafted is not reflected in the structuring
of the platforming challenges. The story can be as good as it wants, but
without a good structure it’s like a statue being mounted on a huge pile of broken matchsticks. Or a painting framed with taped-together Weetabixes. First of all, the jumping doesn’t feel great. If you’re not holding down the run button
Horace can barely clear a drawing pin. Furthermore, the game aspires to a level of
Super Meat Boy difficulty comparable to steering a motorized skateboard through a hedge maze
constructed entirely from the rare electrified whirring sawblade bush. So this causes a catastrophically loud grinding
of gears when it intersects with the very strong context the story has established. One might reasonably wonder why everyone has
a gauntlet of whirring sawblades and exposed sparking wires in their house and/or workplace. If security was the concern they could’ve
locked the fucking door. After a while I had to consciously will myself
to keep playing rather than spend the afternoon immersing my hands in bags of rice instead. There’s not much sense of challenge ramping
up, unless the north face of the Eiger counts as a ramp now. It felt like the game would introduce a hazard
and then immediately start using it to make things as hard as possible. Yes, it never dwells on failure and you can
restart in seconds, but after a while, perfectly getting past a roomful of whirring egg whisks
and vats of corrosive Fanta only to die at the last moment because your toe lightly brushed
a cornflake on landing, well, it wears me down. I’d try to suck it up and enjoy the story
but it’s like trying to hold a conversation with someone who alternates between encouraging
nods and smiles and ringing smacks to the head. But even the story fails to live up to the
promise of the beginning once things get going. The main issue is consistency. I honestly don’t know if Horace is post-apocalyptic
or not. Right after you wake up everything’s in ruins
and apparently evil robots killed the vast majority of humanity, and then you hop on
a train to a nice sunny town where everything’s lovely and you take a part-time job washing
dishes in a tea shop, complete with slightly annoying fiddly minigame just so you don’t
get too relaxed and think the smacks to the head have stopped. Various attempts at broader themes are made
but swiftly glossed over and forgotten about. There might be an oppressive government in
power, it’s hard to tell, we occasionally have to rescue someone being held in some
secure facility or other but they also might have deserved it or been there willingly. It’s all very confusing. Even more so for the one chapter where we
go on a time travel adventure to ancient history out of fucking nowhere, fight a giant Egyptian
robot and then come right back to the present and never mention it again except as a diverting
anecdote to tell the old ladies in the tea shop. And I think that was where I realised what
Horace was: Horace was somebody’s baby. Presumably the same somebody whose name appears
in massive letters with a musical sting on the first ident screen. A game they were probably working on for ages,
long enough to get bored and need to distract themselves with time travel adventures and
weirdly elaborate minigames that could’ve been serviceable core mechanics in themselves
but were overindulgently thrown into darling baby as an aside. And the result of overindulgence is bloated
baby. No 2D pixel art game should be a 14 gig download,
for fuck’s sake. Throwing more stuff into baby’s trough was
clearly more important than testing or refining what was in there, keeping the apple sauce
separate from the bacon grease. Perhaps they could’ve fixed some of the bugs,
like the one that made me stop me playing. At the point when the game gets bored again
and decides it’s going to be a Metroidvania for a bit, which made the platforming even
more demoralising ‘cos now I didn’t know if it was even taking me the right fucking way,
I accidentally glitched through a puzzle I didn’t have the means to solve and soft locked
my whole fucking run. And I was sad, viewer, ‘cos I still think
Horace is worth a chance, in contrast to triple-A games there’s clearly actual love in it, but
there’s such a thing as too much love, as my ex once told me as I wanked off into the

100 thoughts on “Horace (Zero Punctuation)”

  1. Escapist says:

    Watch the Rebel Galaxy Outlaw Zero Punctuation episode a week early at the link: https://www.escapistmagazine.com/v2/2019/08/21/rebel-galaxy-outlaw-zero-punctuation/

  2. Not-A-Witch says:

    Working on the site from morning to night
    That's living alright.

  3. Villordsutch says:

    I came here expecting a skiing classic! Though I have to admit I was pacified (slightly) with a Dizzy shaped egghead.

  4. Young yeet God says:

    You should do outer wilds

  5. BrawnyFanta says:

    Sea of what now? 😁

  6. Nathan Adams says:

    so many Sinistar references in the beginning. love it

  7. K4RN4GE911 says:

    So in conclusion, the gameplay in Horace is like trying to make your way through the Path of Pain from Hollow Knight with a broken Mad Catz controller. Yikes. Also, 14 gigs for a pixel art game?! Undertale was less than 200 megabytes, for crying out loud!

  8. Gart Lonm says:

    Horace is definitely not a wimp here, he has a life.

    Seriously no ELO joke wtf man!

  9. Kishibe Rohan says:

    It takes some massive steel balls to make a game that starts with almost 90 minutes of back to back cutscenes, narrated with a monotone Microsoft Sam voice, before it properly begins

    The game was in desperate need of someone to kill a good 7gb of its darlings before it got released

  10. Pikminiman says:

    "Respect your kitchen appliances."

  11. Egg Of Wah says:

    2:07 the parentheses is called zero punctuation, yet there is a question mark.

  12. BuriedFlame says:

    3:18 That's most of my interactions with higher-ups at my day job right there.

  13. SelLillianna says:

    Yeah it can be really tempting to just put a billion things into your passion project, I feel that.

  14. Scrub says:

    If forsen sees this VI VON ZULUL

  15. NitroDragon911 says:

    Please could you do a review of Divinity 2 Dragon knight saga! Yes I know it's old but want to know if my opinion is true

  16. Nero DeathStep says:

    Faulty Tower… not alot of people know that show sadly.

  17. Jakewake 52 says:

    I wonder how Yahtzee would respond to The Friends Of Ringo Ishikawa. It seems like it could be something he loves for being quiet and self reflective or utterly boring with zero direction- both of which are true but I loved it

  18. Fernando Govea says:

    First time Yahtzee’s acknowledges fantasy world dizzy, rather than it being a background joke.

  19. Luiz Alex Phoenix says:

    To be fair, Stardew Valley was also a personal project that took years and I love it. Instead of, brace yourselves, games like Undertale that force the player into choosing their route forward, Stardew's many minigames worked due to being completely optional.

    There are only a few unique items that require specific actions, everything else can be bought or collected through other means. So, I only ended up dealing with certain parts of the game after I had gone through everything else and still wanted more game. That and the game is really polished after all those years. Maybe Horace needed multiple routes, instead of trying to cram everything to the point where the player had to fit into the dev's own taste.

  20. Peter von Feldt says:

    Im pretty sure that it's just shovel ware and you could've passed it off as much with out playing it

  21. Sponsie1000 says:

    l'm just very glad that they finally found a way to show the blue credits-scenes And fit some mandatory endcard together, l was really missing the blue credits scenes

  22. bigmeknurgle says:

    I LIVE
    Well thanks for making me think about Sinistar for the first time in [REDACTED] years.

  23. Gadetron Games says:

    You'll never save prince horace

  24. MazeFrame says:

    "DARQ" might be worthy of a review.

  25. Stuart Austerman says:

    Are you gonna review Ion Fury?

  26. Divinity D says:

    Holy fucking shit 14 gigs for a 2d platformer? Terraria is only 100 mbs and even the extremely bloated starbound is 4 gigs

  27. Liam White says:

    Is THAT what this game is? I kept seeing it being pushed at me, and all I could think of was "What weird Lego game is this?"

  28. MegaMindfreak666 says:

    That's not the Eiger on that picture, it's the freaking Matterhorn!

  29. Arnt Iversen says:

    How can something like this series, so very focused on the audio, to this day still not have decent recordings or mixing? I don't know where in the production the bottleneck is, but by now it should have been straightened out. Come on, Yahtzee.

  30. Snack Time says:

    Yahtzee: I love Dark Souls for the challenge

    Also Yahtzee: ugh, this game is haaaarrrrrdddddd

  31. Rocatex says:

    The JOJO of videogames

  32. Nidhoggr says:

    Thank God it's Yahtzee time again!
    Tried to watch the other guy Bob and had to stop before I cut my veins open with a paperclip.

  33. Palm Pay says:

    I've been a fan for years but I'm semi confused as to why he still does these. He's a seriously good writer, and his books sell quite well. Sure this helps with the marketing, but I can't help but feel he's jaded to the point he's going to pass the irony and end up hating games in general. Games are designed with keeping you happy for a few hours after work or on weekends, not under the assumption you play every single one on the market day in day out for 12 years. Not surprised he's getting more un-ironically negative lately. Look how miserable and jaded all those movie reviewers for the New Yorker and NYT always end up, and they only have to sit through 90 minutes of samey garbage.

  34. Inheritors and Aeons says:

    What did you expect to see from a random indie game off steam? Perfectly rendered Hanging Gardens of Babylon? The Sydney Opera House, Perhaps? Herds of Wildebeest sweeping majestically-

  35. Ninjartist 36 says:

    If it's story rich then just watch the cutscenes on YouTube

    It should be obvious that the gameplay would be terrible

    Not saying every plot based game is terrible

  36. Dirk Dingle says:

    Bloated BAYBEH

  37. soldier22881 says:

    yahtzee you should try retro reviewing arcanum of steamworks and magick obscura , its old game but it has a lot of deep lore. but dont know if youll like it since you might have not enjoyed planscape that much

    edit: just suggestion for you during the game drought release schedule. something for you to check out if you feel like it

  38. James Leffingwell says:

    I would… no joke… pay good money to read a well thought out reconstructive essay on The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

  39. verlioeder says:

    Review the Outer Wilds! Its an (actually decent/novel) story game that I think you will hate less than everything else the industry sharts out all year round.

  40. Owen Z says:

    So Nier Automata but indie

  41. TheLiosoul says:

    Other obscure Indie games that deserve your attention:

    Tumbleseed: A roguelike with a unique mechanic
    ZeroRanger: A bullet hell with great sense of style
    Armed With Wings: A side-scrolling Spectacle Fighter with a Limbo-like ahestetic
    Wandersong: A cheery story-based game about a bard who wants to save the world

  42. HamTheBacon says:

    But… i already acknowledge you as my God…

  43. Midwoka Milling says:

    Oh. Well… I've actually seen the title card for this game before.

    But I dismissed it, 'cause I legitimately thought it was a Lego version of the Riddler.

  44. Dreams says:

    Please review dark wood, it’s a brilliant little game with cult following. It’s gonna slip under the radar.

  45. Man with a movie camera says:

    This video was actually quite the lesson in game design. I legitimately hope Mr Paul Helman sees it and is able to use its criticism towards making a more focused sequel, cause that would be an excellent game I'm sure

  46. JamieCurrant says:

    So this game is what would happen if you put all your monthly games into Space Game then released it…

  47. Kelsey Mccrea says:

    Really need to review and play a game called little nightmares pleeeeease!

  48. Andrew Joseph says:


  49. Wanderer Werewolf says:

    Yeah, even with the gravity boots and the shields, the game is tough. The ending is worth it, though.

    I won't spoil the ending. Something in the story, though, bears spoiling:

    All of the robots are Horace. And when humans woke them up and ordered them to kill each other, they didn't want to.

  50. Fission Mailed says:

    This looks like the neckbeardest m'ladiest game if judged by the cover alone

  51. Lyndon Mindog says:

    Thank for bringing back the after credits cartoons
    I love them

  52. Fighter jet Pilot says:

    I'm visiting a Hoe Race later.

  53. Mohammad M says:

    Donald Trump robot

  54. pavo6503 says:

    Is it bad that I got bored with a Yahtzee video about a game he found tedious and boring?

  55. true fandom says:

    Indeie games can be both fun and joy sucking

  56. true fandom says:

    So its the white palace in hollow knight

  57. KNJfan says:

    Hor Ace

  58. Hunter Hancock says:

    Honestly… I did just lick it randomly… I saw the stickman and got hyped

  59. The Smart-Casual Gamer. says:

    3:57 Why, of all 'Bots, did you pick RID 2016 Sideswipe?

  60. Tom Franck says:

    So the "watch a playthrough on youtbe" style of game, gotcha

  61. trick chins says:

    Yea fuck you Horace

  62. Alex Baldwin says:

    Why does Horace look like a goddamn ROBLOX character

  63. Anirudh Pai says:

    Okay what’s the Camberwick Green Day joke?

  64. jammin023 says:

    But does he fight spiders and go skiing?

  65. Joseph Fazio says:

    “Happy Birthday from your friend!

    Horace Pinker 😁

  66. Maldus Alver says:

    1:16 Nice pull on the latest wolfenstine game.

  67. Son Of Satan says:

    This game contains an Auf Pet reference?


  68. SpookySkulll says:

    I think the too much love phenomenon is what's happening to yandere simulator and it makes me sad

  69. DiscoClam says:

    I would be fascinated to see what all the devs who make these games have to say about the ZP episode about their games.

  70. tbxvividos says:

    0:23 OMG lol "it's just 9.99 per month for heroin plus" had me rolling

  71. Floopy blooper says:

    Gt live wuz here

  72. Monkey says:

    He's easy to listen at .75 speed

  73. Danny DangGang says:

    And now game theory is playing it.

  74. Kaitensatsuma says:

    Didn't get exposure? God damn I don't think I had a single day a month ago where I didn't see two to three ads for the fucking thing.

  75. Szabi60 says:

    sans thumbdernail

  76. Bogumila Czwakiel says:


  77. Bogumila Czwakiel says:


  78. CrazyJayBe says:


  79. Emma Popovic-Bogdanich says:

    Dear Paul Helman,
    I too am working on a creative project that has taken years to build up, and an added difficulty that I have is that I want to include multiple parts that happen at the same time but in other places so they influence each other and yet are different. Even though some people have found problems with Horace, you know know what those problems are, and can now remaster it. If you streamline it and remove the ill-fitting parts, then people will get what they loved about the original and know that it's less flawed. Plus, remasters always attract a lot of new customers.

  80. Ben James says:

    Zero Punctuation is still going?

    I'll probably watch another in a decade or so

  81. Keith Fraser says:

    Zero Punctuation indie rock band name of the week: Rare Electrified Whirring Sawblade Bush.

  82. Adam Kampen says:

    Zero Punctuation videos have this unique quality of fully captivating me with Yahtzee's analysis and talk of the game until it slaps me in the face with a sharp joke in the last second and abrubtly ends. It's really great.

  83. Zenomits says:

    So half the game is the white palace?

  84. Unexpected Meme says:

    forsen's playthrough PepeHands

  85. Henry Plumb says:

    Review wreckfest

  86. VarvasNukka says:

    Please for the love of god play pathologic 2!

  87. Gretgor says:

    The way Yahtzee says "perhaps they could have fixed some of the bugs" at 4:34 is so weirdly rhythmic, I couldn't help but listen to it, like, five times before moving on. Someone make a remix, pretty please?

  88. Andre carleton says:

    Hey Yathzee, will you be reviewing Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey?

  89. Paul Rone-Clarke says:

    So… did he go skiing?

  90. Mittens FastPaw says:

    I'm going to pass. Seems a little to random for me.

  91. James Verner says:

    So it's Undertale but done wrong!?!?! Ok I'm interested

  92. fishpop says:

    3:57 Oh hi Sideswipe!

  93. sean huybrechts says:

    wonder if he'll play remnant from the ashes

  94. Ari Vastamäki says:

    Game is very generous with checkpoints and there's no loading times whatsoever. Story itself is way better than most games has to offer. I wouldn't take Yahtzees opinions as gospel.

  95. Noob Owl says:

    The ending lol

  96. alwayslikeaboss says:


  97. Graham Stoner says:

    If Horace ain’t skiing or escaping spiders, I don’t give a fuck!

  98. Frank Sirracha says:

    Would Amid Evil and Ion Fury count as a retro review? I'm in love with both of these games and no one besides the two "boomer shooters tubers" on YT were talking about them.

  99. Kira Slith says:

    "I accidentally glitched through a puzzle I didn't have the means to solve", what a disturbingly familiar problem.

  100. BOI says:

    Yahtzee didn't like, ended up in GAY BABY JAIL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *