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Cart #harold-4 | 2021-12-02 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | License: CC4-BY-NC-SA

A precision puzzle-platformer aimed at speedrunners that turns one of the oldest videogame tropes on its head.

In other games, dying is bad, and your remaining lives are just chances to try again... right? No, not on Harold's Bad Day.

Finish as quickly as possible, while trying to save as many Harolds as you can for a perfect run.

My first PICO-8 release - hope you enjoy!

P#100973 2021-11-29 06:34 ( Edited 2021-12-02 02:43)

:: phil

Amazing! What a great game and so clever.

Without the clues at the bottom of the screen I would be hopelessly stuck but I had such fun playing this and trying to work out what to do. Haven't finished it yet but I will keep trying and then go for some speed-runs.

P#100979 2021-11-29 09:33

Thanks Phil, really appreciate the kind words!

I hope some of the levels aren't too brutal - there are some really tough ones but I didn't want to nerf things too much until I got it in the hands of other players.

Please let me know if any level is rage-quit inducing. Thanks again and cheers!

P#100983 2021-11-29 10:44
:: dredds

This is a great game. I love the game mechanics and the clean graphical style. Really impressive.

P#100984 2021-11-29 10:52

Cheers Dredds - appreciate it! Checking out your carts right now.

P#100985 2021-11-29 11:03
:: phil

How many levels are there? I didn't find any particular level rage inducing but I still haven't finished it... Real life got in the way.

Actually I found screen 2 a bit confusing at first and I almost gave up. I am so glad I didn't though.

Also the music in great and the way it changes in the water is a really nice touch.

P#100986 2021-11-29 11:36

The game uses the entire map memory, so there are 32 levels total.

P#100987 2021-11-29 11:40
:: dredds

I found level 2 really tight. It takes almost perfect control to get through. That's really hard when you play on a phone. As a result it took me a lot of tries to get through. Maybe it's too difficult for so early in the game, and should be tweaked to be a little easier to let the difficulty level ramp up more gently.

P#101029 2021-11-29 20:47
:: phil

Phew! Finally completed: 46:28 - although I did pause for extended periods and come back to it.

The levels that I found tough were:

  • 23 "jump" - that almost made me quit - a couple of the jumps seem to need to be pixel perfect

  • 31 "running the gauntlet". That was ever so hard - only 1 jump seemed difficult, but there was a great deal of frustration in setting it up, only to get impatient, die and have to start again.

@dredds - On desktop, level 2 is a breeze when you know what you're doing. I'm assuming that the bottom left drop is the issue on mobile. On desktop as I fall I just push right and Harold falls then moves onto the block without dying. If Level #2 is that hard on mobile you are going to really struggle later on.

P#101031 2021-11-29 21:41 ( Edited 2021-11-29 21:41)

@phil, I think you're talking about "Don't Fall", and @dredds, you're talking about "Come Up for Air", which is quite tight even on desktop or controller/handheld. I might extend the time it takes for Harold to drown slightly.

@phil I believe you're the first person other than myself to complete the game - nice one! "Jump" is tough, yeah, but I'm not sure I can make it easier without breaking other levels. "Running the Gauntlet" is intentionally difficult, being the final level.

Thanks for the great feedback guys, I'll see where I can make improvements.

P#101035 2021-11-29 22:26

hmm the water level is WAY WAY to brutal for me, I keep dying before I get to the end... (I get the first air pocket)

P#101039 2021-11-29 22:51

@SandwichBlam @dredds I've uploaded a new version with fixes to "Come Up for Air" that should make it a touch easier.

Let me know how you go, cheers!

P#101048 2021-11-29 23:50

very inventive!

P#101068 2021-11-30 08:39

Thanks @freds72 - appreciate the kind words from a PICO-8 legend such as yourself! :D

P#101071 2021-11-30 08:49

Like @phil, I wouldn't have got through several levels without the level title providing a hhint.

I had a lot of trouble with "Jump", eventually getting through it. But I got stuck on "Leap of Faith", and in part I don't think I understood the vertical air column mechanics.

I gather the actual thing is that it's important to be in the centre of the column, or close to. But I had convinced myself that it was possible to fall down even while centred, but that holding down the up arrow key made a difference!

I did work out how to get to the top of the middle column.

But I tried to repeat this by making a running jump at the second column - and with Coyote Time, this was just reachable! But of course there isn't time to land over there before the corpse falls away.

While composing this message I finally realised that it was possible to die on the center column, then jump to the right column.

But it feels like I spent a lot of time because of this misunderstanding about the air.

P#101072 2021-11-30 10:41

Levels after "Leap of Faith" were challenging but manageable. In general play, I found the platforming very fluid and polished. Please do keep adjusting the levels so it can be completed with some difficulty, but the real challenge is completing it optimally.

I really liked the gradual palette dimming to show I was approaching the end of the levels (and the bad day).

P#101074 2021-11-30 10:59

@Cowirrie Wow! Thanks for such detailed feedback!

I'm trying to strike a precise balance between fun and frustrating, so your comments are very much appreciated so that I can work out where that balance lies.

With "Leap of Faith", you eventually came to the correct solution though trial-and-error, which is what I intended - this is as much a puzzle game as it is a platformer. But I'll look into ways of improving communicating game mechanics and reducing confusion. Really appreciate your feedback, thanks!

P#101080 2021-11-30 13:43
:: phil

I found that a good clue to solving any particular level is how many lives you are given. If you only have a single life you obviously can't die. But on a level like "Leap of Faith" you have 2 lives, so you will likely need to use 1 dead body to complete the level.

This isn't always true, especially on the bridging levels, but I found it helpful.

P#101081 2021-11-30 13:57
:: shy

Fun game! That last level is brutal, especially with the slightly slippery controls, so I'm happy just completing this one. I have a feeling this game could get to sub-5 minutes if the right speedrunner comes along, though.

P#101087 2021-11-30 16:39

Playing to maximise Harolds saved, I got:

Harolds Saved: 37

Playing through on the second and third time, there's some really clever level design where it takes some effort to complete the level using all the available Harolds, and then more thought to realise there's a more frugal solution. My favourite is "Psychotic Precision" with zero dead Harolds (technically). No way do I have the skills to speedrun this, but I look forward to seeing someone try.

Replaying the "Sky Pilot" level, and thinking about my difficulties with air columns I'm wondering - if you're moving into air in any direction, could the force of the air be increased above the effect of just standing in the airflow? So falling into a vertical air column slows you to a halt over the span of a few blocks, but once at rest you go up as slowly as before? You might prefer not to do this, since it would be a physics change that would affect several levels.

If there are any spare tokens, could Harold turn red when he's on fire and nearly toast? The same palette used when he's under water would be fine.

And sorry Harold, but your frantic waving when nearly out of air is one of the cleverest animations I've seen on Pico-8.

But even with Harold's waving, I'm glad I only had to let him drown once on this run (on "Shield Wall"). I think it may be possible to get avoid even that one, and save a 38th Harold. Twice, I've managed to jump straight out of the water without needing even one drowned Harold to stand on. But I can't reproduce it, although I've managed similar water jumps on levels like "Let Me Drown" and "Bridge Over Trouble". These normally take a half dozen tries to make happen. A floating point rounding thing?

P#101217 2021-12-02 00:18

@phil Yep, great observation!

@shy Nice run - that's a decent time. Glad you enjoyed it, and sorry about that last level! Not sure about a sub-5 minute run - my PB is 13:48 but I haven't put much time/effort into a speedrun yet.

@Cowirrie I am gobsmacked. I thought the maximum amount of Harolds you could save was around 31. You've blown away my record.

I didn't think you could skip past those water levels but I've just reproduced it - nice find! I've just managed to save all Harolds on "Shield Wall" using this method, so 38 saved is definitely possible. Doing this, my best is 36, so I'd love to know where you saved those other two!

I'm so happy you found the way to "technically" save all Harolds on "Psychotic Precision" - I didn't think anyone would work that out.

It's really hard changing any of the physics at this stage without breaking other levels as you surmise, but I'll look into fixes to the level design of "Leap of Faith" as I've received a fair bit of feedback on that level.

I'll definitely look at changing Harold's palette when he's nearly toast - this would come in handy on "Right on Time"/"Ride on Time". I'm out of sprite space but I could do it with palette changes - plenty of tokens left.

Thanks again for all of your feedback. After working on this game for so long it's awesome to see people play it, enjoy it, and discover things that I didn't think were possible. Cheers!

P#101227 2021-12-02 02:22 ( Edited 2021-12-02 04:45)


Thank you. I found another improvement, so my latest score is below, and a breakdown of Harolds saved per level. And thank you for making burning Harold turn red.

Here are where the lives are saved. This adds up to 38, so does the Harold that walks into the house count as the 39th?

0 harold's bad day
0 don't fall
0 come up for air
0 i'm on fire
0 arrows
0 fall on me
2 let me drown
1 jump into the fire
4 arrow through me
2 firestarter
1 psychotic precision
7 bridge over trouble
3 stairway to heaven
0 something in the air
9 shield wall
1 against the wind
1 sky pilot
1 windshield
0 blowin' in the wind
2 close the window
2 wind beneath my wings
0 the tempest
0 jump
0 don't stop believing
0 right on time
0 leap of faith
0 put out the fire
0 earth, wind and fire
1 ride on time
0 so close
1 running the gauntlet
0 home sweet home

Some highlights...

Level 9 "Arrow Through Me": Drop a single Harold into the fire and use that to land on. This sets the second one on fire, so move quickly to reach the exit before burning.

Level 20 "Close the Window": Land one Harold on the edge of the cliff so the second one can land safely on top. This requires a precise landing and usually costs me a lot of retries. I found this route before working out the "correct" way that uses most of the level features.

Level 21 "Wind Beneath My Wings": Make the first Harold catch fire and move to the right. Then use the second Harold to briefly move underneath the corpse, blocking airflow so it drops. Then float up past the falling corpse and step on to it. Standing on top of the corpse will usually stop it moving further, but jumping will allow it to move again. I adore the emergent "cartoon physics" that allow this to happen.

Level 29 "Ride on Time": Run through the fire, onto the block at the right, then fall off it and step right to the block underneath. There is just time to escape the level with this. This is the latest life i found to save.

P#101464 2021-12-04 21:36

@shy @biovoid

I had quietly been running it for a bit, there's some screens that could've gone better, but sub 5 isn't possible with my route/strats.

Still a fun game tho c:

P#101489 2021-12-04 23:24

Those are some slick moves, especially the corpse placement in levels like "Firestarter" and "Wind Beneath my Wings".

I've always been over 10 minutes by the time I get to "Running the Gauntlet," and then I have to reset several times on that level before I get through it.

It never occurred to me that I could make the timing in "Blowin' in the Wind" more forgiving by leaving the corpse on the second layer. I've always dropped it on the bottom layer, and then rushed to catch it.

If I may offer one suggestion, there are a few levels where finding a more optimal-Harold solution will shave some time as well. But not many of those.

P#102289 2021-12-10 09:06

I've been busy finishing up work before the Xmas break, so sorry for not replying sooner!

Wow, great speedrun!! My best is 12:13 so you're way ahead of me! As far as I'm aware that's the fastest speedrun so far - I haven't seen any evidence otherwise.

I don't think sub-5 is possible, but maybe sub-7?

Very impressed with your "Firestarter" solution to ensure you're not waiting too long for Harold to burn.

It's possible to do "Shield Wall" with one Harold, so you could shave quite a few seconds off there, but I think you have to be pretty lucky.

You clipped the corner on the last jump for "Against the Wind", losing valuable seconds as Harold slowly floats up.

It's possible to do "Windshield" faster by only using one Harold to block the wind. You have to be fast though. :D

Amazing work on nailing "Close the Window" in one go! It takes me several resets to succeed here.

Great job on "Wind Beneath My Wings" also. Very impressed.

Lots of time lost on "Jump". It would seem this level is universally tough/frustrating, but I kinda feel like keeping it that way. :D

"Don't Stop Believing". Well done! claps

"Leap of Faith" - if you time a jump right when the block disappears, you'll float up much quicker.

"Running the Gauntlet" - WOW. It can be done quicker but I've never seen it done that quick and certainly have never done it that quick. Hats off.

P#103239 2021-12-21 09:56

Correct - the final Harold counts towards the total saved.

I'm very certain that 39 is the maximum number you can save after comparing your counts to mine.

"Wind Beneath My Wings" - It's possible to position a single Harold in the middle of the level, then jump from the starting position to that Harold, then to the finish. But it requires absolute pixel-precision, and I've only done it once.

P#103240 2021-12-21 10:03

This is so charming on top of being really fun, with amazing attention to detail :) I even love how the game starts with him peeking out of the window, maybe dreading the day.
Oh yeah, and the audio muffle underwater is ace.

P#103249 2021-12-21 15:14 ( Edited 2021-12-21 15:21)

Thanks @Logarhythm, I spent a lot of time & effort on the details, so I really appreciate you noticing them!

P#103550 2021-12-26 11:28

Whew, the Gauntlet is a beast!

Realizing where the safe spots were finally got me through :)

P#103617 2021-12-27 16:24

Managed to speed run it in 6:07. Times below 6 minutes are definitely possible - I lost time and Harolds in several places.

Sorry, no sound. I'm not used to making screen recordings. I'm using Quicktime on macOS 11.6.1. I installed the application BackgroundMusic, which I'm sure worked when I tested it, but apparently not now.

The headbonk in level 15 "Shield Wall" (around 2:35 in the video) is intentional. This reliably results in a high jump to the exit. It makes this water high jump the easiest one to pull off. I still can't reliably do them in level 7 ("Let me Drown") or level 13 ("Bridge Over Trouble").

I had a lot of trouble with level 23 "Jump" for a while, but can now get through it pretty consistently. But it does feel like you must use "Coyote Time" to get over the wider gaps.

P#103801 2021-12-30 05:00

Amazing Cowirrie! Arrow Through Me, Shield Wall, Don't Stop Believing and Ride on Time were especially clever :)

P#103824 2021-12-30 14:59

@Logarhythm: Thank you. The route through "Don't Stop Believing" is copied from the run by @jellyd0ts.

The timing in "Shield Wall" gave me a lot of trouble until I realised it's possible to go straight down the left edge and just barely miss the arrows.

While I was learning, it was often the long jumps that would usually make me restart. Now it's mostly those blocks that fade out when you stand on them, and need to jump off at the last minute.

P#103844 2021-12-30 21:01

@Logarhythm Congrats on completing it! RIP to those 316 Harolds though! :D

@Cowirrie WOW! You really have set the bar high here.

Fastest time and 35 Harolds saved! Amazing! I bow down to you my friend! Sub-6 is on the cards!

"Jump" was definitely possible without coyote time, but I think it required absolute pixel precision jumps. v1.0 of Harold didn't have coyote time - it was introduced after release when I noticed a lot of people having trouble with that level. Funnily enough, it's one of the harder levels that I have the least difficulty with!

When I have more time I'll rewatch your run and comment in further detail... but for now, well done! AMAZING!

P#103884 2021-12-31 03:05
:: merwok

died by fall and fire
5/5 will play again

P#104140 2022-01-02 23:50

Great game, very polished indeed!

I understand the "hold to reset" feature to prevent accidental resets when still alive. But once I'm dead, I kind of resent having to hold down Z for so long to reset. Maybe that could be instant if you're already dead.

I also found a bug on this level, when I died, it kept auto-respawning me and stacking up dead Harolds.

P#105098 2022-01-14 20:59

Man, is this what Ohio is like?

P#105207 2022-01-16 21:54


P#105231 2022-01-17 13:25

@biovoid: Congratulations on getting featured as you deserve!

It finally motivated me to record a speedrun for 39 Harolds Saved. As far as anyone here has worked out, that's 100% of all possible Harolds, yes? Anyway, I did it in 6:09. I had to reset in several places, so faster runs remain possible.

For newcomers, please don't watch this video until you've played this marvellous game several times. A lot of the fun is in puzzling out how to save more Harolds.

Compared to my first speedrun, there are some changes to save more Harolds but that are fiddlier and often forced me to reset. I also realised there's a faster route through "Right on Time" at 4:14 that's hilariously simple once you see it.

P#105262 2022-01-17 22:20

It seems common to get stuck while figuring out this game, me included for a few hours. If you've got stuck to the point where it's no longer fun, here is a walkthrough video.

This has the worst possible solutions, so that it can help you out of a jam without spoiling any interesting puzzle solutions.

The more I play this, the more I appreciate that it manages to be a difficult platformer without just having instant-death spikes on every possible surface. The floor, the water and fires can all be deadly, but all of their risks can be managed, and that results in some interesting level designs that also look nice. Celeste itself is a good game, but there is a problem when so few platformers experiment with what else they could use as building blocks.

P#105295 2022-01-18 02:54

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