Review: Horizon Shift

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It’s got to be hard to make a shooter that gets some attention these days. There’s just such a huge glut of them that they need something really special to stand out from the crowd. Horizon Shift goes in a direction that I’ve certainly never seen before, mixing in platforming elements of all things to an otherwise Geometry Wars-y design. And while it still might not be hugely groundbreaking, it can keep you busy with some quality shooting.

Horizon Shift has you commanding a simple rocket-looking thing against waves of neon wireframe baddies. You’re not flying up or right or all around to fight them, though. Your ship is glued to a horizontal line in the middle of the screen, the “horizon” previously mentioned. The ship slides along it left or right but can also flip to the top or bottom of it, useful when enemies come from both the top and bottom halves of the screen. If that sounds too restrictive you can also double-jump off the line to dodge particularly pesky attacks.

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Enemies creep in from the edges of the screen in slow patterns before taking aim or dive-bombing you, giving you time to flip and slide into position. While most enemies attack you directly, others attach to your horizon or blow chunks out of it, and a few can kill you instantly by reaching the horizon. The ones that attach to or remove pieces of your horizon add a multiplier to your score, so if you want to live on the edge and let them draw near you can rack up extra points. It’s pretty risky though, because waves get pretty hectic pretty fast.

There are a few scant upgrades to grab during your battles, like faster movement and more powerful shots. Chaining kills also builds a meter that gives you a screen-clearing bomb when fully charged. Enemies get pretty creative, including scuttling space crabs and bounding space lobsters (not sure why stellar seafood is such a thing here). There are bosses as well that range from large to crazy huge and edge up towards bullet hell territory without really crossing over. Oh, and there’s even a little Breakout-style bonus round between stretches of waves to change things up a bit.

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Aside from the horizon mechanic, these elements form a pretty typical space shooter. The graphics are simple outlines for the most part, some empty and some with gradients, so nothing particularly attractive. The backgrounds are kinda neat and remind me of my Dance Dance Revolution days, with a soundtrack of thumping electronica to match. There’s a whole mess of game modes and modifiers as well but that might be my one knock against the game, I never managed to unlock any and the game gives no indication of how you access them. Outside of that there’s nothing wrong with Horizon Shift, just nothing that really stands out. If you want to shoot some stuff and attack some scores, you’ll get that here along with a little twist to keep you going a bit longer.

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