by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I remember it like it was interesting. . .
I first found Haimrik quite by accident. I was covering Pax South 2017 and in one of the booths I stopped at because I had free time, I stumbled upon a puzzle/RPG where words, and how you use them matter. It’s a real zero-to-hero sort of tale, it’s Lester the Unlikely, but amazing and more of a puzzle RPG. I absolutely fell in love with this game for so many reasons, and have been direly waiting for it to come out. This is a game that, outside of its ridiculous, overdone gore, could be used as a real teaching tool. The gore personally doesn’t bother me, but the game uses a very muted color palette. The greys, blues, and sepia really make the red of a destroyed body significantly stands out. It’s very over-the-top, so I think it shouldn’t really upset children or adults, but you never know these days. “But how is Haimrik a teaching tool?” I hear you asking, and my response is, “Well if you’d hold on a minute, I’ll tell you! Jeez”! Let’s talk about what Haimrik does.
As the story unfolds, the story is written (literally) under Haimrik’s feet, so as you walk to the right, you’ll see the images of what’s going on for the cutscenes, and these can also be interacted with in vague but fun ways. This is a game that just uses a keyboard, but I’d love to play with a controller. Using the “S” key, certain words when going through a stage can be interacted with. In the space under Haimrik’s feet, the story of that particular area is visible, so you can determine which words are possible weapons/tools. A prime example is early on when you first enter the Book World, and there’s a stage (seen above) where you can pick up a sword, a torch, a barrel, and gunpowder. Going too far over will trigger the guards, so you have to figure out which of these is the best way to fight. Do you just grab the sword and fight? Do you try triggering the fireworks (also on this stage)? Well, they do nothing. So it’s either make a fireworks barrel or fight with the sword. Your jump isn’t so great, so you can’t just leap over either. You do take damage though – When your name runs out of blood/red coloring, you die. The same goes for bosses at least. You can see clearly how low on health they are.
The best solution is to get the barrel, gunpowder, torch, and run down to where the knights are, and throw the barrel. Since I couldn’t figure out how to throw a held item, it took me a few moments. You hurl the barrel at the knights and they explode into a bright, crimson gorefest. That’s why this game is so important: You really need to read everything, whether you’re being chased by an ice monster, fighting an evil wizard, or simply walking slowly through a castle. It’s not always right in order, so you should take a moment to read and really think about what’s going on. In so many RPGs, you skip over the dialogue/story because it isn’t often important to the actual gameplay, but in Haimrik, the words are the gameplay. It’s not a game that requires you to read insanely fast (but it does help), but even the bosses need you to act and think fast, activating the right words, and doing what it takes to survive and thrive as a Word Warrior. You, as Haimrik, wind up activating a strange leather tome, so an evil wizard cannot use it. You are the chosen one, the Word Warrior. The cast of characters is fascinating, from Haimrik’s mom, who insists you must always be good and kind, to the buxom innkeeper who lends Haimrik a room in her basement, to the mighty lioness that he rides about on, everything and everyone in this game matters.
The boss battles are infrequent but challenging. Nothing about this game feels impossible or overwhelming, and while combat is far from engaging, that’s not what we’re here for. The world is alive, the characters and story are both well written. Haimrik as a game is very entertaining, and I found myself laughing even in the face of adversity and pain, as the Lioness considers Haimrik’s regenerating hand as an infinite source of meat. There are times it can be frustrating if you’re not really sure what to do because the game doesn’t have any form of notation on what buttons do what. You just have to pay attention when it’s taught and hope for the best! Luckily it’s not a ton of buttons you need to know. The only weakness to the game is that Haimrik himself is not very interesting, and the music, while nice at first, kind of wears on me after a while. But the visual aesthetic and the actual gameplay is what really makes this shine.
The Will and the Word: 4/5
I think what really enchanted me about this the most is its possibility as a tool to help teach the importance of reading comprehension and critical thinking. Sure, the game has some pretty ugly violent spots, but so do most of my favorite fantasy books, and I read them at an early age too. I think it’s fascinating and fun, and I’m a sucker for a good puzzle and a story well told. When I was a kid, this is something I kind of wanted, minus the constant turning into a pile of blood and bones; no, I just wanted my words to hold some kind of power or sway, and in a way, I suppose that has ultimately happened. I adore Haimrik, and I think everyone who loves puzzles, RPGs, ridiculous humor and amazing art will find something here. From the wobble of certain body parts to Haimriks’clear distressed features anytime he does more than walk at a normal pace is a treasure.