My mother always told me “iOS games are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” This age old piece of wisdom has held true since I began reviewing iOS games here at gamrReview. I never know if I’ll be reviewing a hidden gem, or something that should simply stay hidden. For me, though, that’s the attraction of the iOS market. Why? Because there’s nothing better than finding a hidden gem and then getting to share it with you guys. So brace yourselves because I’ve found another one.
Horn is the latest effort from Phosphor Games, the studio that created the critically acclaimed mobile game The Dark Meadow. In Horn you’ll fill the shoes of the titular character as he embarks on an epic quest to stop a mysterious threat and save the kingdom. It’s pretty basic fantasy fare, but it’s portrayed well through the use of good voice acting and storyboards (which you can skip if you’re just in it for the gameplay). However, don’t think that just because the story isn’t Oscar winning you should forget about it completely. It certainly did enough to hold my interest, which is a feat not many iOS games have accomplished.
If the story is good, then it’s fair to say that the gameplay is great. The best way to describe Horn would be as the lovechild of The Legend of Zelda series and Infinity Blade. You’ll have to explore various levels – which are accessed via different hub worlds – in order to find magical artefacts that allow you to progress onwards. While these levels are linear, much like a dungeon in Zelda, you’ll still have to go off the beaten track if you want to find every bit of loot and treasure.
Throughout Horn you’ll be asked to solve puzzles and defeat some enemies. Initially the puzzles show promise, but unfortunately as the game progresses they fail to evolve into anything truly complex. You’ll find yourself completing slightly different iterations of the same puzzles throughout the game, and while this isn’t exactly a deal breaker, it can get tedious. Combat on the other hand fares much better. When you approach an enemy, Horn will go into combat mode and at this point the game becomes very similar to Infinity Blade. You can roll to either side to evade attacks, while slashing your finger across the screen in a certain direction will result in Horn attacking in the same direction. The combat is excellent and it can provide real satisfaction when you defeat a particularly troublesome foe. Speaking of foes, there are plenty of enemy types with various attack patterns and weak points to ensure you’re kept on your toes.
Moving around the world couldn’t be easier. You simply tap on the screen where you wish to go, and hey presto, Horn will run there. It feels odd at first, purely because you can’t move backwards or turn corners like you can when using a d-pad or analog control set. Stick with it, though, and you’ll acclimatise in no time at all. Minor issues may present themselves, such as getting snagged on a piece of the environment, but don’t let it put you off, because the world Phosphor have created is a beautiful one and it deserves your attention.
Aside from the main story and missions in Horn you’ll find other aspects of the game will keep you busy as well. Horn is also a Blacksmith, you see, so all this treasure you collect can be used to forge and upgrade weapons and armour. At the start of the game there are plenty of weapons for you to forge, but if it’s more choice you’re after, you’ll want to find the blueprints hidden throughout the world. Armour is only there for show, but the weapons all have their own specific stats, and if you want to compete with the more challenging foes later on, you’ll want one of those custom made bad boys.
Like most games, Horn isn’t without some minor issues, but it does a lot of things right and is a fine attempt at bringing a console style game to a portable device. If you’ve been craving a deeper experience for your iDevice, then Horn may be the game for you. At $6.99 in the US and £4.99 in the UK it isn’t the cheapest game on the market, but if you’re a fan of action/adventure games then give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.
This review is based on the launch copy of Horn, provided by the developer and downloaded via the App Store.