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Star Horizon Review

he app store. Featuring console-quality visuals, intuitive controls, and upgradeable weapons and ship attributes, Star Horizon certainly looks amazing, though the gameplay may leave you wanting more.

Star Horizon Pros:

  • Impressive visuals and ultra smooth animations
  • Responsive and intuitivcontrols; clear visual indicators on cooldown timers
  • Soundtrack and sound effects enhance the experience; voice acting is clear
  • Upgradeable weapons and ships with no IAP
  • Offers some control over the direction of the narrative
  • Unrelenting action and exciting set pieces
  • GameCenter integration for leaderboard and achievement systems

Star Horizon Cons:

  • Full campaign is relatively short
  • Little replay value
  • Sparse upgrade system is underwhelming
  • No multiplayer/co-op option

You play as John, a space marine who wakes from cryogenic sleep many, many years into the future. Aided by Ellie, an AI bot who doles out his missions and gives back as much snark as she takes, John pilots his vessel through space, destroying myriad enemies and weaponry while fulfilling his orders. In each of the ten relatively-short missions, John is afforded the opportunity to make a choice that helps shape the narrative and determine his fate. For instance, in the first mission, John must decide whether to go against orders and help his friends out of a jam or remain steadfast in his goal of destroying several Anti-Matter Capacitors fastened to an alien craft. Controlling your ship is easy, as you drag your thumb around a small area in the lower right corner to manoeuvre around the screen. A swipe left or right will initiate a barrel roll. Three icons in the lower left corner will fire your three weapons, two of which have cooldown timers to prevent you from unleashing too much firepower too quickly. Enemies have target reticules that light up when you lock on. The reticules have health meters around their perimeters, which deplete as you give ‘em all you got until the ships explode in exciting fashion. You’ll need to avoid enemy fire, which isn’t always easy since it often comes from off-screen.

There are also set pieces where you manoeuvre through rotating laser beams and dodge through small openings while making a trench run that ends in familiar fashion. You have both a shield and ship health bar which deplete as you take damage. The shield bar will replenish itself over time and the ship health bar only depletes while the shield bar is empty. Most of the enemy fire is easy enough to avoid and death doesn’t occur too often. If you do die, you can restart from various checkpoints reached in each level. Mission success rewards you with points that can be traded in at the Hangar for weapons upgrades or stronger ships, though there are only a couple options for each type. This aspect of the game felt a little sparse and undercooked. Otherwise, the game plays nicely and it’s a good deal of fun while it lasts.

Graphically, Star Horizon is one of the nicer looking games we’ve come across, with polished visuals, fine details, smooth animations, and great lighting/shading effects. The over-the-top action is quite palatable when paired with the pleasing camera angles and action sequences you’ll encounter. The main source of on-screen clutter is the weapon button cluster. It would have been nice to have the option to alter the opacity to make it less obtrusive and show off more of the visuals. The soundtrack is fitting, the voice acting is clear, and the sound effects have a fun, arcade-y quality that reminds you that it’s just a game. The controls were never an issue, responding nicely to our inputs. The cooldown timers appear as yellow bars around the weapon buttons that disappear completely when you are able to fire again, providing clear visual indicators even in the heat of battle. A steady dose of your heavy weapons mixed with near-constant pressure from your main unlimited weapon should get you through any situation just fine.

Replay value is not great, as there isn’t really much reason to keep playing once you’ve passed all ten missions unless you’d like to grind to earn enough currency to upgrade any weapon that may not have been maxed. There is no multiplayer/co-op option, but GameCenter does provide a leaderboard and a couple dozen achievements, most of which are earned by default while progressing through the campaign. A universal app for $3.99, Star Horizon is a 4-Dimple offering.