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Video Game / Horace

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Horace is a retro-style, heavy story driven platformer that branches out at certain parts into a Metroidvania. It was developed by Paul Helman and Sean Scaplehorn, published by 505 Games, and released in 2019.

The story follows the titular robot, Horace, who is the newest member of the wealthy Old Man's large family, including the Old Man's wife and their daughter Heather. Horace soon become a part of the family and becomes friends with nearly everyone, performs in a demonstration for some very wealthy and important people, discovers his love for video games, and has a good life.

Then, one tragic day, the Old Man has a heart attack, and Horace, in shock, shuts down and sleeps for several years. When he wakes up, he finds his home and the rest of the world in ruin due to a war that no one wants to talk about, but involves robots rising against humanity. Now, Horace, with the help of his old friend Mr. Barry Silton and his small crew of former thieves, must travel the world, reunite with his family, and find a way to quell the robot uprising.

Horace contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Alice Allusion: The entirety of Chapter 7 is this, taking place in a bizarre wonderland complete with "eat me" cake and "drink me" drink, the Cheshire Cat as a Unique Enemy chasing Horace, and the Queen of Hearts as the boss of the chapter.
  • All Just a Dream: The surreal Alice Allusion that is Chapter 7 turns out to be a dream induced on Horace by Sim, who was experimenting on his CPU.
  • Artistic License – Paleontology: Averted when Preston is terrified because they time-traveled to a prehistoric era, the Professor reassures him that dinosaurs and humans lived 65 million years apart. Preston continues to panic, this time about Dino-ghosts.
  • Attack Drone: One serves as the boss of Chapter 19.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: Near the end of the game, upon winning the robot tournament and becoming The Chosen One, Horace is crowned the new robot king.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The Post Office robbery "going wrong" appears to be because Silton used his plumbing van with his name on it as an escape vehicle. What actually happened was that the stolen money vanished and the other robbers accused Silton and Preston of hoarding it, which Preston later turns out to be actually guilty of.
  • Big Bad: The Ether Boss is the leader of the robots in the Old Man's estate and the greatest obstacle to Horace's mission to end the Robot War, until his defeat. Then it becomes a Big Bad Ensemble between the robot leaders/advisors and the Man in Black, the seemingly nice leader of "The Great and the Good" who created the robots and wants to kill them all.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After a long, hard, and harsh journey, as well as losing the lives of The Professor, Heather, Preston, Ether, Betty, Fluffers, Dr. Hiro, and Fort, Horace finally manages to bring an end to the war and save both the humans and the robots. Sadly, he's infected with the same virus that started to kill the other robots, but lives long enough for him to see the birth of Stilton and his wife's baby. Thankfully, he gets to go to heaven to be with the Old Man, who is his father, and Heather.
  • Bland-Name Product: Many of the games/movies/bands seen in the game are real works/people mashed together.
  • Book Ends:
    • The story starts with a Horace meeting an Old Man, his wife, and Heather. In the end, Mr. Silton's kid says the same thing to refer to him, his wife, and their Heather.
    • The very first minigame played is a game of Pong. While not quite the end, the penultimate boss, the Robot Champion, is fought in what is basically a game of Pong.
  • Chekhov's Gag: While traveling in time with a recently dead Professor, Preston gives a fake ghost story that only Horace naively believes to be true. In order to convince Fort, a robot who just lost his girlfriend that the afterlife exists, Horace tells the same ghost story for Fort to regain his faith in heaven.
  • Classical Elements Ensemble: To broadcast a "NICE Virus" to turn the robots good, Horace must journey through the mansion and defeat several elemental robots. A giant sphere that blows wind, an earth golem that throws rocks, a mermaid-bot that swims in the water, and a bomb-throwing pyro complete with a jetpack. The final robot, a giant robot brain in a jar called the Ether Boss, is revealed to have been a Psycho Prototype who gained control over the nanobots, and was sealed away due to being too powerful.
  • Computer Voice: Horace is voiced using text-to-speech. The Ether Boss, Fort, and Silton and his wife's child also use a computer voice.
  • Country Matters: A Running Gag is Mr. Preston calling Mr. Silton a “proper c***”.
  • Cozy Catastrophe: Even though the robot armies have taken over 99% of the world, life goes on surprisingly normally in the area of southeast England where most of the game takes place.
  • Dead Guy Junior: The Siltons name their daughter after the recently deceased Heather, and it's inferred that Mr. Silton quickly got Mrs. Silton pregnant again in order to do the same for Preston.
  • Death Is a Sad Thing: Horace first experiences the concept of death when the Old Man, his creator/father, dies of a heart attack. Horace is so shocked that he shuts down for years. For the rest of the game, thanks to the effects of the Robot War, he winds up seeing death a lot, and says quite a few times that “death is really sad”.
  • Disc-One Final Dungeon: The top of the Estate, and the subsequent rooms in the mind of the Ether Boss, The Disc-One Final Boss. Afterwards, there are still some other locations to go through, and the real final dungeon is the very top of the Estate.
  • Do Androids Dream?: Horace discusses the concept of the afterlife with Fort, who wants to know if his dead robot lover is up there in heaven. Horace tells him a ghost story that Preston told him to convince him that there is. Not only does Horace literally have dreams every few chapters, but in the end, he dies and goes to Heaven, meeting his father and sister there, confirming his belief as correct.
  • Do with Him as You Will: If Horace chooses to save the Man in Black, he then leaves him with his family, who he tries to kill prior. Mr. Silton is heavily implied to kill him with hallucinogenic mushrooms.
  • Escort Mission: Chapter 8 has Horace having to escort Mr. Silton, Preston, and Mr. Logan through the Solomon Automations factory by picking up various large objects and throwing them into gaps in the ground to make room for them to walk. Unlike many examples, the trio cannot be harmed in any way, so the mission is relatively easy.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep":
    • The Old Man and many characters associated with him (The Old Lady, The Professor, The Men in Black and Grey) are only referred to as their descriptions by Horace, even after he meets other unnamed "Old Men" or "Old Ladies".
    • It's implied there's a "Solomon" in the Old Man's family given his company being called "Solomon Automatons", but it's not clear if it's his name, the Man In Black's name, or their surname.
    • Weirdly, this even applies to Horace himself. Silton always calls him "Robot", he is listed as "Robot" at the Summer Fete (none of the other participants are given a name either), as "Challenger" at the Video Game tournament (where the other participants DO have names), and his room in the Mansion is titled "The Robot's Room". The only times he is actually named as Horace is by the crate that he gets delivered in at the beginning of the game, and the computer he gets hooked up to after his Heroic BSoD.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • As a result of the Robot War, robots in general are viewed with distrust. Posters in the tunnel to Mainton call for human citizens to register all robots, saying that rogue robots cost lives. Horace himself often faces discrimination as a result- characters he does not personally know are often afraid of his mere presence, a bartender tells him that "we don't serve your kind here", and several humans outright try to murder him. By far the worst example of this prejudice is The Great and the Good, who want to commit genocide of free-willed robots and replace them with slave robots.
    • On the other end, the robots themselves are very anti-human due to humans developing them as war weapons and trying to get them to kill each other. The Ether Boss in particular is very angry with his creators for abandoning him. Horace has to go so far as to upload a virus into them that will pacify them and make them stop their aggressions towards humanity.
  • Final Solution: The goal of The Great and the Good, to end the Robot War, is to exterminate all robots. The Man in Black intends to do this by modifying the NICE virus into the KILL virus, causing a robot pandemic, because he believes that robots should be slaves to humanity and that their free will disrupts the natural order.
  • Foreshadowing: When Horace finally finds the Professor again, he is already dead. For most of the game, how this happened is unclear, especially since there are no signs of a break in or that anyone else was inside. He then shows up having time-traveled, and Horace goes with him. Eventually, what happened is revealed- the Man in Black shot him and pushed him into a portal, leaving him dead in his chair.
  • Gameplay Roulette: While the bulk of the game is a platformer and Metroidvania, there are several optional and mandatory minigames at various parts based on classic games, ranging from Space Invaders to a driving minigame to a Pac-Man clone. In particular, the Queen of Hearts section requires Horace on go through several different types of minigames and ends with a clone of The Legend Of Zelda. Several bosses also take on new control schemes, such as the aforementioned Queen, who is fought as a typical Zelda boss; the Earth Boss, who is Breakout in boss form; and the Robot Champion, who is fought in a Pong match; and the final phase of the Final Boss, which is a Humongous Mecha fight. This is mainly because the game is meant as a tribute to the developers’ favorite games.
  • Game Within a Game: There are several of these based on classic games like Pong, Pac-Man, Frogger, and The Legend Of Zelda. There is also a Final Fantasy clone that Horace is seen playing at one point but is not playable.
  • Government Conspiracy: The Great and the Good, led by the Man in Black, is an organization made up of the world leaders that secretly controls the remaining human civilizations from their base on the moon, and has, as their ultimate plan, the genocide of robotkind.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Human/Robot war which kicks off after Horace is deactivated due to humans forcing the robots to fight each other. Even after Horace wakes up, the war is still ongoing.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: While most of the human characters are benevolent, or at least harmless, it turns out that the reason that the robots rebelled against humans was because humans tried to make them destroy each other as machines of war, but they united against them instead. In addition, the true villains are the Man in Black and the Man in Grey, the leaders of a human Government Conspiracy. They are also the most evil characters in the whole game, as they are a pair of sadistic Corrupt Politicians who believe that robots should be slaves and thus want to kill all free-willed robots.
  • "It" Is Dehumanizing: During the second demonstration, the Man in Black refers to Horace as "it" and a "thing", something that Horace himself makes it clear he dislikes in his narration.
  • It Was a Gift: Though Horace didn't understand it, the gravity shoes that he wears were supposed to be a gift from the Old Man before he died during the process of giving them to him.
  • Just a Machine: As a result of robots rising against humanity, human civilization in general has very negative views of robots. In particular, the Man in Black thinks all robots should be unquestioning slaves to humanity.
  • Man Versus Machine: The entire conflict is a worldwide war between humans and robots, though the hero is a robot working with his human family and friends to end the war peacefully.
  • Marathon Level:
    • Chapter wise, Chapter 6 is the longest of the game. It begins with a level where Horace must break Mr. Logan out of jail, complete with boss fight and driving section. Then, after some cutscenes, Horace goes to Mainton, where he must complete a job minigame to earn the money for a train ticket to Big City. Once there, Horace must traverse another level, the BCT TV headquarters, a much longer level with yet another boss at the end.
    • The Estate has about 80 to 90 rooms in it, and actually takes multiple chapters to traverse, complete with multiple boss battles. It is also set up like a typical Metroidvania and is the only level to have a map.
  • Mercy Kill: A time traveling Professor sacrifices himself to kill the Ether Boss, stopping the broadcast of the KILL virus, to which the Ether Boss responds:
    Ether Boss: Thank You!
  • Metroidvania: From Chapter 3 onward, as the levels are mostly connected, with a few exceptions such as the prison levels. The Estate, the mainland, and the cities are connected and can be visited as they are unlocked. The Estate in particular is the level most resembling one, as unlike all other levels, it has a map, contains several bosses spread out throughout the map, and gives abilities for beating each boss that are needed to access deeper areas of the Estate (as well as secret areas outside it).
  • Mood Whiplash: For the first hour or so, the game is primarily a fun, happy platformer with some mature humor (primarily from Mr. Stilton). Then the Old Man suddenly drops dead from a heart attack, Horace suddenly shuts down, and when he finally reawakens, years have passed, the estate is in ruins, and a Robot War is raging in the mainland.
  • Nanomachines: One of the Old Man's creations. After his death, they run rampant around the Estate due to being controlled by the Ether Boss.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Saws, spikes, flames, sparks, and Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom are everywhere. Fort seems to be the only one who notices or cares.
    Fort: Those platforms don't look very safe. Be careful.
    Fort: Why are there saws here?
    Horace: It makes no sense.
  • Reference Overdosed: Plenty of film, literature and game references, be it simple cameos or full on parodies. There's even a reference to the "Original Horace".
  • Reverse Polarity: The Professor, just before using his machine to take everyone out of the prehistoric era, says that he has "reversed the polarity of the neutron flow" in a reference to Doctor Who.
  • Rewatch Bonus: A real dark example. When time-traveling with the Professor, Horace ends up in the bedroom of the Old Man and the Professor's younger selves, and it's implied this gave them the drive to indulge in robots and time-travel. Looking closer, one might realize that not only are there three beds, meaning there was a third kid offscreen, but one of the kids has a pair of glasses, which neither the Old Man nor the Professor wear. That wasn't the Old Man's past self who Horace smiled at, it was the Man in Black's.
  • Robot Athlete: The Sports Bot 3000 is one of the competitors in the Summer Fete in Sitcombe.
  • Robot Girl: A few of them appear as minor characters, such as Fort's dead lover.
  • Robot Republic: The Robot Capital, the primary HQ for the robots who are fighting against humanity.
  • Sequential Boss:
    • The Snake Security System begins by sending one big snake after you. Once you beat it, it sends two snakes, and finally four snakes.
    • The Security Robot, every few hits, will send Horace to a lower floor with more traps, and does this twice.
    • The Queen of Hearts is an odd example, as she traps you in a TV and makes you play several minigames, and the Boss Rush counts all of these as part of the boss, but you only directly fight the Queen at the very end of the section for one phase.
    • The Egyptian golem has three phases- every few hits, it Turns Red and will switch attack patterns for how it throws stuff at you.
    • Dr. Herral fights you inside his Kill Bot, and has three distinct phases. First, Horace must dodge his fists and unscrew the bolts to unlock the inside of the robot. Then, you must traverse an obstacle course inside the robot to get to the top. Finally, you have to trick the fists into hitting the cockpit.
    • All five of the Estate bosses are this:
      • The Earth Boss is fought in a manner similar to Breakout. Every few hits, he restores the bricks, uses a new type of projectile, and becomes faster.
      • The Air Boss has two distinct phases. First, it will throw books and missiles at you, and you must hit it in the weak spot. Then, it will rise up, and you must run on top of it, hitting the head to dunk it into the fire pit below.
      • The Fire Boss will throw bombs and rocks at Horace slowly. Once you hit him with bombs three times, he will go faster and build more walls. Then, he will start hovering and go even faster with his throwing, and finally, he will go really high and throw at his fastest.
      • The Water Boss will first race you through an underwater track. Then, you must dodge several obstacles on moving platforms. Finally, you must beat her in another race.
      • The Ether Boss has four phases in which he will use cards against you. You must flip the correct cards, playing memory, higher-or-lower, matching, and flipping them all respectively, all while the boss shoots projectiles at you.
    • The Drone will first chase you throughout a level, and you must hide from its blasts. Then, you must go back and forth getting fuel for Fort to charge him up so he will defeat the Drone.
    • The Final Boss is against the Man in Black and his Kill Bot. In the first two phases, you must dodge his fists and trick him into lowering/raising the platforms for you, similar to the Dr. Herral fight. Then comes a tutorial phase where you must practice the controls of the Kill Bot, before the final phase, an all-out mecha battle where you must knock the Man in Black into the fire pit.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: If Horace opts to save the Man In Black from his Disney Villain Death, Silton kills him anyway via mushroom poisoning.
  • Take That!:
    • Donald Trump is a member of the "Great and Good" and thus ends up getting stranded on the moon in the end.
    • The final opponent in the gaming tournament is a Billy Mitchell parody named "Bitchy Million" who is portrayed as both dishonest and a Sore Loser.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The reason Alice is such a hoarder, specifically bikes? She had a son that died in a bicycle accident.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: All robots that came after Horace had his personality, like his love of video games, sports, and music, but not his growth and love for humans. When said robots were forced to kill each other, they instead turned their guns on the humans, and have been trying to destroy humanity since Horace fell asleep.
  • Unexpected Shmup Level: Downplayed because of the Gameplay Roulette nature of the game, but Chapter 17 ends with one, as Horace must escape the moon base in a ship, eventually ending in him fighting a flying saucer.
  • Unique Enemy: The Robot Lab Elevator has a secret entrance to a room with a giant bouncing ball enemy called the Giant Bernard.
  • Upgrade vs. Prototype Fight: The Disc-One Final Boss fight is between Horace and his Psycho Prototype, the Ether Boss, who is a giant Brain Monster in contrast to Horace being a humanoid robot. Horace wins, though the Ether Boss puts up a good fight.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The very top of the Estate is a short but difficult trek consisting of the rooms Attic on Fire, Under the Roof, and The Attic Leak, and the Roof where the Final Boss is.
  • Wham Line: The Man in Black, who seemed to be benevolent, says this to Horace, revealing his true nature:
    Robot, I want you to kill this man.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • How did the junkyard owner's wife react to him seemingly vanishing off the face of the Earth?
    • Logan deserted the army alongside another man, but we never find out who.
    • Captain Mike Hapden disappears after the group land on the moon.
    • The Robot Capitol is never visited again after Horace leaves, thus we never see the Robots reaction to their "King" abandoning them.
    • Horace meets Heather and the Old Man in the afterlife, and only them. None of the other people who died are seen.