Star Horizon ($3.99) by Tabasco Interactive is an on-rails space shooter game that will have you flying through the cosmos in your nifty space ship and blowing stuff up while on a mission to survive. If you enjoyed other space shooters like Galaxy on Fire, then you will get a kick out of Star Horizon, as long as you don’t mind the on-rails experience.
Everyone wishes they were in space, right? But it’s highly unlikely that most of us will ever have that dream come true, so in the meantime, there’s other ways to satisfy our flying-through-space wishes, such as through video games. And it’s even more exciting when you get to shoot off lasers and missiles and blow stuff up in zero gravity, right?
I enjoy space shooters, though to be honest, I’m not that great at them when the controls are freestyle, as I can have terrible aim. That’s why I’m enjoying the on-rails experience of Star Horizon, as being put on auto-pilot takes a lot of the frustration out of the game for me.
The visuals in Star Horizon are absolutely beautiful. You’ll find console-quality graphics in the game, with a universe that is incredibly rich in detail, and quite vivid with color. The movement animations in the game are some of the smoothest I’ve seen, and I experienced absolutely no lag or choppiness while playing the game on my iPhone 5s, even as I was furiously doing barrel rolls to avoid a lot of enemy fire or when things were constantly blowing up.
The soundtrack is quite fun to listen to, with the fun “pew pew” sound effects you’d expect from space shooters. The game also has full voice acting with the main character, computer AI of your ship, and your comrades. I thought that this element was decent for a mobile game, though it’s far from the best. It’s adequate enough for me, though, because I mostly just care about flying and shooting stuff.
Controls in the game are simple and friendly enough for anyone, from the hardcore space shooter fan to the casual gamer. Since Ellie will have your ship on autopilot, you don’t need to worry about moving forward, just the horizontal movement left and right, as well as dodging.
To move around, you just move your thumb around in the bottom right corner, while doing a diagonal flick gesture will perform a barrel roll dodge. On the left side, there will be three buttons for attacking: your standard gun, torpedo, and swarm attack. Since this is on-rails, the game will automatically lock on targets when you’re within range, so you don’t have to worry about manual aim. The crosshairs will become yellow when you’re locked on, so feel free to fire when you have your target. The gun has continuous fire, but the torpedo and swarm will have to recharge after you use them, so make sure to utilize them at the right moments for efficiency.
Of course, if you have a MFi (Made For iPhone) controller, then you can use this for even better controls in Star Horizon.
Star Horizon has a pretty decent plot, where you find your protagonist, John, a former member of the Federation, awaken from a hibernation state inside of a ship on autopilot by Ellie, an artificial intelligence designed to help soldiers remain strong during war. Post-hibernation, John struggles to survive with a handful of comrades, and needs to figure out exactly what happened in the 1000 years that he was asleep.
As you go on this journey to piece together the past, Ellie will guide you through with various missions that you’ll need to complete before you can progress. These missions are basically the levels of the game, and you can earn up to three stars on them as well as get in-game currency, depending on your skill and how fast you complete it — the faster and less mistakes made, the better. If you are unable to meet the mission requirements, it will be a fail and you will have to try again. You can use the money you earn to upgrade your ship and weapons in the Hangar.
Another thing that makes the game fun are the decisions that you will need to make. Sometimes, while you’re on a mission, another objective may come up, and you need to decide on what you want to do. You only get five-seconds to make the decision, and what you choose will alter the game. So even though the game is on-rails, you can take different paths that will affect the story. I liked this part quite a bit, as it really feels like your decisions have an impact on the game.
There is full Game Center support for leaderboards and 26 achievements, so the replay value is high here. Also, the upgrades in the game are all obtainable through the in-game currency, and there are no in-app purchases, which is lovely.
I’m enjoying Star Horizon quite a bit, but it may not be the right fit for seasoned space shooter gamers. It is on-rails, which makes it a bit easier than other titles in the genre, such as Galaxy on Fire 2. However, there is a lot to do in terms of the missions and objectives, and the decisions that need to be made add a nice little twist to the game. Plus, it’s just so nice to have a space shooter that isn’t depending on players to spend more cash on in-app purchases to beat the game — this one is just about skill, despite being on-rails. The visuals are nice, but the voice acting could have been better.
If you’re looking for a fun little on-rails shooter to kill some time with, then I recommend checking out Star Horizon. However, if you want something a bit more challenging and isn’t on-rails, then you should look elsewhere.