Horizon Shift ’81 immediately brought to mind Binary Zoo‘s excellent Duo. It’s the same gimmick of the player moving along a horizontal line that runs through the centre of the screen, being able to flip either side as required to shoot the baddies.
Awkwardly, it also managed to stun me into silence for a brief moment when I realised that Duo is now over 15 years old and come on! Ref! Ref! That was a foul. So I guess it won’t really be a point of reference for most folks. Ah well. Duo is really good and I’d recommend giving it a go if you can.
Whilst the basics are shared between the two games, there’s a lot more going on in Horizon Shift ’81 than I’d expected. As well as the horizon flipping, the player can jump their way out of trouble or use a Space Giraffe-esque bulling mechanic to push any enemies off the line. It’s kinda chaotic, really.
The chaos seems to extend to the baddies turning up too. Perhaps there is a pattern to them appearing but with so much going on, I found it really difficult to make one out. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, just a heads up in case you prefer your games to be about learning patterns and that.
Every so many levels there’s a boss fight too and they provided me with a welcome break from the chaos. Here things are observable, learnable and I won’t go as far to say tactical but certainly easier to concoct a strategy for. They’re also really quite peaceful so I found I wasn’t especially worried about finishing them off quickly before being plunged back into the chaos.
So aye, definitely a lot more than I was expecting when I first booted Horizon Shift 81 up. It’s deliciously messy and whilst I can’t say that stuff always hit the spot, I love the whole “sod it, we’re having this and this and this and this and” attitude towards designing games.
I like my games to have rough edges, I like them messy, I like to see people throwing stuff in even if it’s not the most perfectly polished or necessary thing to find its way into a game.
I liked Horizon Shift ’81, is what I’m trying to say. I picked up the PS4 version (as usual) but other formats do exist.