Games based in outer space tend to be a bit hit or miss. There has to be a perfect blend of stunning visuals and riveting gameplay to really catch the interest of players who have seen time and time again the space genre, and trying to capture the spirit of Star Wars or any other epic space adventure can be a risky move. Star Horizon by Tabasco Interactive is, to say the least, one of those that can say that they are in the upper middle of the spectrum of space games that are entertaining and worth a try.
Here, players take on the role of the blandly named John as he finds himself alone in the vastness of space. With his mothership destroyed and with a love hate relationship with his ship’s AI Ellie, John must find a way to complete his mission as part of the Federation across several missions that would require rapid reflexes, a quick eye, and even faster decision making.
Controls within the game are pretty basic, with the right side of the screen dedicated to moving and dodging, and the left side used for shooting one of three available armaments. There’s even a feature that will allow for left handed controls, which is great for southpaws that are more comfortable with an alternative orientation. Ammo is unlimited, although there’s a certain cooldown period before more powerful weapons can be used again.
Don’t think of the game as just another railway shooter, however. Although your aiming is pretty much assisted, and players are not able to control as to which direction you would like to fly, shooting at enemies is pretty much secondary in your list of concerns. Dodging enemy projectiles is the easy part, but it’s the avoiding of flying debris as well as any other obstacles that would run in your way that’s going to take up much of your attention. Players will need cat like reflexes as they would often find themselves flying through asteroid belts and even corridors of spaceships, and making the wrong move will have players finding themselves in a heap of trouble fast.
Of course, there’s the upgrade system, which would allow your ship to deal and survive more damage. This mechanic is pretty basic, however, as currency earned can be used to buy more powerful weapons and ships, and nothing else. There’s really no variety when it comes to getting other weapons that would at least allow for more variety when it comes to strategy. It’s just a matter of saving up, buying something better for your ship, and then moving on.
Despite being simple when it comes to general gameplay, Star Horizon more than makes up for it with stunning visuals. The animations are smooth and colorful, very much similar to watching an epic and CGI filled space battle in the movies. Players will find themselves surrounded by enemies at one moment, and then in a vast emptiness filled with gigantic planets and massive space stations in the other. The sound effects may need some work, though, as the verbal jabs between John and Ellie, although clichéd at times but amusing at some moments, can be a bit difficult to hear amidst explosions and the sound of machineries turning and whirling.
Star Horizon also sets itself apart from the pack by providing decision points, which players must respond to within five seconds. Choosing whichever option will slightly alter the story, but the plot itself is pretty linear. This could have been improved with the game providing several alternatives and consequences to whatever decisions the player has made, but determining how it would alter some scenes and dialogue would interest players to play the entire game at least one more time so that they’ll know how things would have turned out should they have chosen whichever option they did not take previously,
All in all, Star Horizon is a pretty entertaining and well balanced game. It’s not just an arcade style shooter with no plot, and players can get pretty immersed in the visual and aural appeal of this title. It is recommended that players try out this game, as at the very least, Star Horizon was able to make a solid effort towards making a space shooter very enjoyable. There are some shortcomings, sure, but unless there’s a game out there for the mobile console that can provide an open world type of game that can boast the same visuals as this game, with more options for upgrades and with in-game decisions allowing for major twists and turns in both storyline and gameplay, then Star Horizon is very well deserving of its current spot.
Tested on iPhone. Final Score: 7/10
Star Horizon was developed by Tabasco Interactive. It is available via the iTunes store and is available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices running iOS 6 or later. Star Horizon was released on March 20, 2014.