Horizon Shift ’81 Review

For the past decade now, the AAA market place has been a trend chaser, competing with one and another. Even games from the same publisher are competing against each other- a business model doomed to collapse on itself. While the AAA industry seeks to devour itself, a subculture of retro gamers and collectors has started emerging. Though, nostalgia will play a big part in it, it’s a growing subculture  nevertheless and is building more traction. The Indie game scene has been a part of this subculture, using pixel art or chip tunes and other retro inspired aesthetic choices; many seek to redefine retro games for the modern era. Games like Owl boy, Tanglewood and the game we are talking about today, Horizon Shift ’81.

Horizon Shift ’81 is the sequel to the award-winning Horizon Shift. Building from the previous title, Flump Studios have made a retro inspired shmup for the modern era. Inspired by retro classics like Galaga, Space Invaders and The Tempest, the screen is littered with neon bright 8-bit shapes on a black background, with scores screaming from the screen like the arcade cabinets. Even the game goes out of its way to display the game screen vertically with banners on the side to simulate looking into the machines of yester year; there is even the option to create a CRT effect.

Its Horizon Shift’s gameplay that puts a unique spin on an old formula. Predominantly, arcade shooters have you (the ship) at the bottom of the screen, as enemies typically come down from the top. In Horizon Shift ’81, you are in the middle, tied to a horizontal line. You must defend the horizontal line and yourself from opposing forces that come from both top and the bottom of the screen. The approach to gameplay is a ‘rub your belly and tap your head, now change, and change back’ that makes this shmup a breath of fresh air.

Though, it’s not just the horizontal line mechanic that makes Horizon Shift work. Added mechanics such as Dash and Jump gives the game a weird hack and slash frantic feel; dashing through enemies and jumping around adds a significant amount of depth to the proceedings. Additionally, enemies attacking, and breaking parts of the horizontal line can make you easily break a sweat while you try and get your sh… ah-hem, your stuff together. If that’s not enough, the bosses are absolute spectacles… well, as much as they can be anyway with its archaic presentation. Occasionally the line will move to the bottom of the screen while this giant set of shapes and colors come from the top to rain on your parade. However, the game has many other surprises than simply just moving a line.

Impressive as Horizon Shift ’81 is, the game isn’t for everyone. It’s influenced isn’t just strictly presentation, the game does carry that same amount of difficulty from those arcade classics, though like those classics, the reward is in perseverance. The games major concern is accessibility. Gameplay built on concentration and multi-tasking, people with certain disabilities or learning difficulties would struggle playing the game with some people just simply not being able to play it, a shame for both the developers and the gamers.

Flump Studios know that having a good idea isn’t enough, it’s the execution of an idea and Horizon Shift ’81’s execution is near perfection; taking something as basic as setting the game in the middle of the screen and fully realizing it. It’s enjoyable, tough and rewarding with a gameplay philosophy that compliments the switch. If you are a shump fan, this is worth your time. Horizon Shift ’81 is about looking at both sides, focusing on them equally, and in doing that you will gain more clarity and reward, you’ll be a better person; striving for the middle ground.

REVIEW CODE: A FREE Nintendo Switch code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

Subscribe to our mailing list

Get the latest game reviews, news, features, and more straight to your inbox