May 29th, 2015
Developer: Flump Studios
Publisher: Kiss ltd.
Take a modern approach to Asteroids and restrict the controls to a non-vector graphics Tempest world, and you’ll have a good idea as to what Horizon Shift has in store for the player. You control ship that glides along a divider in the middle of a large rectangle, only being able to aim up and down, as well as jump. The goal is to stay alive as long as possible, take out as many foes as you can, and avoid falling off a ledge if said divider happens to be damaged, all the while trying to make it to the last boss fight. You are given a laser-like weapon that fires at a steady pace with the button held down, bombs you earn by filling up the combo chain, and random power-ups to help you such as a shield or dual ships that make it so you fire in both directions automatically.
While it sounds easy enough, the difficulty in the game actually increases pretty quick due to the many enemies, obstacles, and variations to their attack and movement patterns. While you start off simply with asteroids heading right towards you, in no time at all you find yourself trapped in a restrictive bullet hell scenario that forces you to avoid slow moving capsules, dodging zig-zagging ships that look like bow-ties, and even enemies that shoot spikes that move along the ground with your ship. In certain game modes, you are able to slow the pace of the game down in an effort to help make things easier, but the madness still remains, posing enough of a threat that even at your most alert, you can still easily be overrun.
There’s also a number of different modes you can use to change things up, though, like many an arcade cabinet, they’re all about the same. Aside three that are locked, there are four readily available right off the bat. “Arcade” is your standard version of the game, granting two lives and boss checkpoints. “Arcade Arrange” doesn’t have a checkpoint system, making it so you can’t select which wave to start on, as well as only one life. “Survival” is the same thing except no additional power ups to grab, and the ship at full strength. Finally there’s “Tournament Mode” which drops the upgraded ship back to the basic one in the first two modes, sticks the speed at 200 as opposed to 150 in the other three that give you an option to change it, and removes the bombs as well. That’s about it, though other modifiers like the aforementioned speed, screen effects, rapid fire ability, and how the soundtrack plays out can be fun to fiddle with.
Thankfully the controls are simple enough to ease that stress a little bit. There are a couple different controller configurations already pre-set that you can choose from, as well as a key binding option that will allow those using a keyboard to get a control scheme that is comfortable for them to use. You can aso use the mouse to fire and jump if you want. Given how hectic the game itself can be, binding to the keyboard is actually really beneficial, and even became my choice method over a gamepad (which, having grown up as a console gamer, is something I rarely opt to do). There’s no delay in the response time either from whatever method you choose, allowing for a smooth dose of quickly increasing chaos every time.
The audio here does wind up a bit on the standard side. There’s a collection of eight instrumentals that are catchy mixes of electronica with a guitars, but only a few really set the mood for certain stages. The opening theme has a fun drum loop that gets you ready to play the game (though can quickly irritate you with how long it builds the next passage), “Boss Battle” does present a slightly ominous and tense sensation with some metal-tinged riffs thrown in for good measure, and “Solar Flare” does have a good astral touch to it that suits the subtle sleek outer space visuals of the game. The problem is that some of these do wind up repetitive, while the others can feel the same, but far more mediocre. They’re good enough to give a little extra life to the game, but just not enough to really keep the player attentive, or stand as anything all that memorable. Throw in some typical sound effects for the guns, explosions, and so on, and you have yourself a fairly basic aural experience gamers of the original PlayStation era will be familiar with, though not too impressed by.
And, finally, there’s the miscellaneous stuff that might appeal to the hardcore Steam gamers. This is another title that backs everything up into the “Steam Cloud”, so if anything like your hard drive fails or you delete the local content for the wrong game, your saved data will still be accessible the next time you play. On top of that you can get trading cards from this one, which are decent enough designs for them and the badges, as well as a number of Steam achievements to unlock, adding a little more incentive next to the global leaderboards to keep coming back and try to make it further. There is an additional version of the game available for roughly seven dollars that contains the soundtrack (which can be purchased separately as downloadable content for three dollars, finding a dollar mark up if you bought the base game only), though I can’t really recommend spending the extra cash on that one, at least at full price as, like mentioned, those eight tracks just aren’t anything too memorable to really justify the excess cash.
But, aside the fairly basic (though still commendable) audio not being the most astonishing, it all boils down to whether or not Horizon Shift is a fun game. The short answer? Yes, it is, even at five dollars on the Steam marketplace. There’s enough there to be modified to make the experience comfortable to play, a quick slope from mildly engaging to a test of skill and reflexes, and tight controls all lead to something you can just pick up and play if you have a few minutes to kill, or even a few hours. By all accounts, this is essentially a tournament model, and one you’ll have fun trying to best your friends scores at time and time again. If anything, on-line or local multiplayer combat of any kind is the only thing that really seems to be missing, which is sad given it would be one of the most used modes if it was implemented. Hopefully one day it’ll be added, but, until then, Horizon Shift is still worth checking out, especially if you can grab it on sale.
|Overall Score: 7.5/10