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As a clear effort to emulate big-budget console shooters like Panzer Dragoon or Star Fox, Star Horizon is perhaps most notable for how true it stays to its vision. It's a game that takes very little influence from the usual iOS design trends, thankfully eschewing common devices like virtual sticks, tilt steering, or in-app purchases. As a result, it’s a mostly successful homage that shines particularly in its presentation.
Star Horizon serves as a showpiece for the iOS platform, with impressive graphics and cinematic angles as your starfighter weaves and bobs through obstacles. Flight feels smooth and responsive with only slight touches, and it’s easy to get accustomed to steering with precision and flicking to barrel roll. The firing commands boil down to three simple virtual buttons, which feel perfectly positioned and spaced to fire off rapidly when needed, but never accidentally. And the handful of ship upgrades are noticeably more powerful, so earning them feels like an apt reward for past accomplishments. Aiming is given an assist that can feel overgenerous, and with the action being on rails, it can sometimes be difficult to predict your flight path and steer away from obstacles—but overall, the controls feel fine-tuned to near-perfection.
Those expertly engineered controls are unfortunately in service of a bland, forgettable space drama. You’re a hotshot pilot with a healthy disrespect for authority, working for a space federation embroiled in a lengthy battle against—stop us if you’ve heard this one—a plucky band of rebels. It certainly doesn’t help matters that the voice acting is almost universally awful, and the frequent attempts at humor fall flat.
In a clever twist, though, it uses the paint-by-numbers plot to give you meaningful choices. At several points in the story, you’ll be asked to make a decision—and given only five seconds to decide. These have a meaningful impact on both the narrative progression and the stages, since a scenario or your mission could change completely. And to its credit, being able to choose between factions in the conflict proves the old wisdom that neither side has its hands entirely clean.
The stages with dueling scenarios offer up a little more longevity, which is welcome as a straight run of the campaign can be completed fairly quickly. But as a short, sweet throwback to the action-packed shooters that clearly inspired it, Star Horizon is a success.
The bottom line. Star Horizon is a tightly responsive, beautiful action shooter throwback with only a few issues—namely the bland story and short playtime—holding it back from being a mobile classic.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 6.0 or later
Fine-tuned controls that feel natural and smooth. Choices have an impact on gameplay. Ship upgrades feel noticeably more powerful, giving them real purpose.
Bland, generic story with dreadful voice acting. Too short-lived in a single playthrough.