Game Reviews

Star Horizon

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| Star Horizon
Star Horizon
| Star Horizon

Given Star Horizon is so obviously inspired by the space battles of the Star Wars movies and the Battlestar Galactica reboot, its protagonist has a curiously dull name.

There's no Luke Skywalker or Kara Thrace performing aerial manoeuvres here.

No, the person you take control of here is simply called "John".

It's a rare dull moment in an otherwise-thrilling arcade blaster.

A typical piece of insight from John

The screenshots for Star Horizon might lead you to expect a free-roaming space epic in the mould of the Galaxy on Fire series. But it's nothing of the sort.

This is essentially an on-rails shooting gallery. You can move your nimble space fighter around a pre-set corridor, which provides just enough leeway to dodge incoming fire and weave past solid obstructions.

Indeed, the dev has used this rigid approach to navigation expertly. Levels will frequently take you through breathless runs around and in between duelling capital ships and huge asteroids.

Much of it is window dressing, sure, but - my - what window dressing. Star Horizon is just stunning, with beautiful explosions and particle effects turning the blankness of space into an impressive light show.

I can see my house from here

Of course, this being an on-rails shooter, Star Horizon isn't endowed with spectacular gameplay depth. But it is a lot of fun.

Your right thumb (or finger) directly controls your fighter's orientation on the screen, with quick swipes sending you on an evasive spin. That leaves a left digit to activate your three weapons.

There's your basic laser, a swarm missile for attacking multiple targets, and a super-powerful torpedo. All are unlimited, but the two missile attacks require a little time to reload.

In practice, there's not a lot of tactical scope. Your ship will automatically lock onto multiple targets, prioritising the one that's directly in front of your ship.

As such, you'll soon figure out that the one way to play the game successfully is to weave and dodge like an angry wasp, holding down the laser button and stabbing the missile keys whenever they're available.

The St Patrick's Day celebrations of 4500AD were a curiously muted affair

Star Horizon isn't what you'd call a nuanced game, then. You can spend money to upgrade your weapons, but it's a relatively linear progression route with little scope for personalisation.

This straight-ahead course is driven home by a simplistic plot that's filled with clichéd dialogue. While fully voiced, the delivery is more than a little stilted, I must say.

There's a commendable attempt to add a little more weight to your actions by offering you a choice at several key points throughout the story, but it doesn't fundamentally change anything in the game. Do you help or destroy a crippled cargo ship? Do you rejoin your militaristic fleet or defend the rebels?

I found it difficult to care, in truth. But that doesn't really matter.

What does matter is that Star Horizon is a slick pulse-raising arcade shooter that evokes many of the best sci-fi space battles in recent cinematic and TV history. Minus the cool hero.

Star Horizon

A great-looking sci-fi shooter that sacrifices depth in order to play out a particularly cinematic brand of space battle
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.