Horn – Console Adventure On A Portable Screen

I first tasted of the intrigue that Phosphor Games could produce as I wandered the creepy halls of Dark Meadow.  It had its issues, but overall it was a captivating game with wild creatures and a unique control scheme.  That was, of course, until I played Infinity Blade and realized that I had suffered Déjà Vu in reverse.  Now Phosphor Games has released Horn, and while the fantasy theme is reminiscent of Infinity Blade, it actually has a lot more to it then either of the aforementioned games in terms of things to do besides combat.  At first I was a bit skeptical about it just because I was afraid it would be a clone of the Chair Entertainment Group’s franchise, but every time I load up Horn I manage to get lost in its mystery and grandeur.

You play a character named Horn, and aside from the fact that you don’t know why you’ve awoken in a strange tower, you discover that you are the only person from your village that has managed to evade a mysterious Pygon curse.  You’ll have to explore a sprawling land with the “help” of the sarcastic head of a Pygon creature in order to discover what the curse is about and how to defeat it.  You’ll face many creatures, solve puzzles to unlock new areas to explore, and gather Pygites and Cores which will allow you to forge and upgrade weapons as well as buy outfits and other miscellaneous items.  Of course you can buy all the outfits as well as additional Pygites and Cores from the App Store if you’re not the grind and earn type.

To move horn and interact with most items you just tap on the screen in the appropriate places.  As simple as this seems, I often find Horn running where I don’t want him to or not manipulating what I’m aiming for.  In combat you’ll swipe to use your currently equipped weapon and tap the left and right dodge buttons to roll in the desired direction.  While the swiping behaves nicely the dodging seems a bit finicky, though that could just be the game trying to catch up with all your swipes.  Additional controls allow you to consume health potions and toss bombs that temporarily stun the enemy.  My favorite thing to use is your Pygon-based wristband, which acts as a projectile weapon, grappling hook and lighter among other things.  It’s sort of like the Swiss army knife of Horn’s world.

If you’re willing to put up with the controls, which really aren’t that awful, there’s a fairly big world to explore.  Each area usually has several interconnected sections to explore, complete with interesting little hovels that take you to bonus areas that couldn’t possibly exist within the physical constraints of the level layouts.  Every once in a while I found myself getting disoriented and going back the way I came instead of pushing forward, usually as a result of doing a lot of dodging during a battle.

People like to throw around the phrase “console quality” when it comes to some of the more ambitious iOS efforts, and while I wonder what the obsession with that is, I would say that games like Horn are starting to breach that barrier.  There are occasions where things can get a bit drab and murky, but overall the visuals are lavish and highly detailed.  The opening video and combat sequences are quite impressive, as is standing and spinning around in an area filled with waterfalls or tall structures.  There are even fine details like sun rings to give natural effects a realistic look.

The sound effects are pretty good, though I do wish there were a bit more ambient noise, as the game often seems too quiet.  I do like the banter between Horn and the Pygon head, as they did a good job of casting the voices.  The music is pretty decent as well, when it plays.  Sadly this mostly seems to be during the initial movie and when you are engaged in combat.  This again adds to the unnecessary silence, which can sometimes be annoying.

If you like games like Dark Meadow and the Infinity Blade series you will feel right at home with Horn.  I was trying to find a total playing time, which I haven’t come across yet, but I’m sure I’ve put a few hours into the game and I’m only 30% through.  There’s a nice balance between exploration and fighting, with a healthy dose of “figure out how to open the doors” thrown in for good measure.  Supposedly the latest update – as of this review being published – addressed some of the control issues I mentioned, but I’m not really seeing it at this point.  Still, the experience far outweighs any minor navigational inconveniences.

Kiss It Rating - 5/5

App Summary
Title: Horn™Developer: Zynga
Reviewed Ver:Min OS Req:4.0
Price:$6.99App Size:
  • Lots to explore
  • Decent, balanced challenge
  • Incredible visuals
  • Good sound and music
  • Controls are a bit flaky
  • Needs more noise

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