“Running Review” is a different take on writing a review. Rather than treat the process as a post-mortem done after finishing the game, this will be dynamic process. Each post will cater to different aspects of the game with the intention of giving you the truest reflection of what the play experience is really like. A detailed review and a score will follow after the game is done.
Developer: Phosphor Studios
Horn is a tablet game, but it isn’t Temple Run or Cut the Rope with little else to offer but cool game mechanics and minimal story. This has the look and feel of a serious adventure game that you’d expect to play on a console.
The game doesn’t quite fit the demographic of its platform. It’s not for the casual gamer looking to pick up and play for a few minutes while waiting in line. Gamers used to to playing for two to three hours at a time could really sink their teeth into this title.
Phosphor Studios caused a buzz in gaming circles when Horn Director Chip Sineni made the comment that mobile phones would replace consoles as the platform of choice. Sineni has since clarified those comments saying that the sound bite was taken out of context, but the studio did well in creating a game that you don’t typically find in the app store.
Aside from the Infinity Blade series, there are few games with the depth that Horn does. It’s strength lay in the narrative, which surpasses your average mobile game. The backstory of the hero Horn and Reynes, the world he lives in, are given in “Once Upon a Time” fashion. The world itself is also rich and detailed with elements of backstory given in notes that are collected during exploration.
The moment Horn wakes up amidst a ruined pile of rubble and pulls that rusty sword from the doorway, it’s obvious something is all wrong with the world. He fits the environment looking like a boy out of place in his new world with the worn leather armor and helmet with a broken horn. His enemies are giant stone monoliths that tower over him, giving you the sense that going through this journey with him takes some real courage .
Some of the game mechanics are hit-and-miss. Moving around would have been so much easier with a dual stick controller. In a typical third-person viewpoint game like this movement and camera are normally controlled simultaneously using two analog sticks, but both actions are separated in Horn.
Dragging you finger across the screen will spin the camera and tapping an area causes Horn to move there. This poses a problem when you want him to run toward a point in the distance or when you need to maneuver him in a cluttered environment. It can be struggle at times to to maneuver the camera into the proper angle so you can see where Horn is going especially when he is up against a wall.
Tapping an area to move also poses a problem. You can’t control Horn once he starts running toward a point and there were times when he would bump into a wall or get caught running into the edge of a doorway. There was one instance where Horn managed to clip through a wall and get stuck forcing me to reset the game.
There were other moments where the Horn utilizes the touch controls very well. Battles are a matter of timing, position, how fast you can swipe your finger across the screen a-la Fruit Ninja when you find a weak point. Potions and stun bombs also give you strategic elements to work with.
The game uses the touch mechanic in other clever ways like swiping to the left or right when shimmying against walls and dragging your finger up when pulling yourself up ledges. Firing the bow gun also requires you to swipe back on the screen back then let go.
My initial impressions of Horn are overall positive. So far the game does a good job of filling a real need for serious games in the App store and Android marketplace. I look forward to exploring many of the other features in the game in depth.