Category: Adventure Game
Seller: Phospor Games
Requirements: iOS 4.0 or later
Compatibility: iPhone 3GS/4/4S, iPod touch (3rd/4th generation), iPad 2 or new iPad
File Size: 871MB
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Age Rating: 9+
Horn is a largely-successful attempt to bring console-style video game graphics to iOS, marrying high-end imagery with touch-based controls. It’s a proof-of-concept that the iPhone and iPad are capable gaming machines in their own right for AAA games, and not just ports of arcade classics from the ’80s or pretending to be a ninja with a vendetta against fruit.
The plot: you are Horn, a young boy from the village of Cuthbert who wakes up to find his entire village has been abandoned by people and replaced with robot-like creatures made of metal and stone. Your quest is to find out what happened to the villagers by defeating monsters and gathering Pygite (the source of mystical energy in the game) to forge better weapons and unlock new areas. Horn, rather helpfully, wears a helmet with a single horn on it. He also finds a horn that has magic properties and, I can only assume, drives a Trans Am with a horn that plays “I Wish I Was in Dixie” in the sequel. But I digress.
The interface is simple and makes good use of the touch screen. Simply touch a spot on the ground and Horn will walk to it. Swipe to look around and change the camera angle. If Horn can interact with an object (climbing, shooting a grappling hook, or climbing), a ghostly image will appear before the object showing what you can do. Certain types of movement require supplementary actions: a long jump might find Horn hanging by his fingers, and you have to swipe up rapidly to keep him from falling; if Horn is scooting too fast along a narrow ledge, you have to swipe back to keep him from falling.
Once Horn enters combat, the interface changes. The monster stands in the center and Horn can tumble left or right to avoid its attacks, or swipe to attack with his melee weapon. If the monster uses a special area attack, Horn has the option to jump to avoid it. Each monster has a weak point (that helpfully glows when exposed). Hit that, and you do more damage without having to wear down the creature’s armor first.
The second type of combat uses a wrist crossbow that’s used to take out flying enemies. You aim the enemy where you think the foe is going to be (they repeat their flight paths in patterns of increasing complexity), then pull back the hammer and release to fire. Using the crossbow is much futzier than the sword, but is the only way to take out some enemies (and use the grappling hook).
Combat is, as I say, simple, bordering on repetitive. You tumble to get away from the attacks and look for a weak spot. Some of the monsters have attacks that hit if you’re standing right in front of them, but for the most part that’s where you’ll want to be unless a weak point is exposed. Those vulnerabilities come out under different conditions for each creature, but even if you can’t be bothered to find its weakness, the “tumble and strike” technique worked against every creature eventually.
Horn collects a certain amount of Pygite for defeating monsters (as well as collecting it for exploring—in fact it’s used to illuminate the path you should follow to your goal). Pygite and Pygite cores ( which are rarer) used to forge and improve weapons, as well as buy healing potions and grenades. Horn can create new weapons, armor, and charms (provided he has the blueprint, which can be found while adventuring or bought) or improve the ones he has, making them deadlier and adding special attacks. While the user gets a discount for using a forge, it’s possible to create them at any time outside of combat.
Even on the iPhone 4, the graphics are impressive. The weird shapes of the Pygar give them a threatening but slightly comical feel, and the world is filled with wonderful graphic details such as waterfalls and the long, twisting paths of his labyrinthine city. The game is a quantum leap forward in terms of handheld playing, moving from graphically simple side-scrolling or top-down play to giving a true third-person adventure. If the gameplay is a bit simple—you literally follow a path of Pygite to your next enemy, who stands in one spot while you run around him—the joy of being able to play a game this graphically dense on a 3.5” screen that understands how the touch interface works over comes that.
Since Phospor games is partnered with Zynga, you know there’s got to be a part where you can pay actual money. In this case it’s a set of packages that give you extra Pygite, cores, blueprints, and even different costumes for Horn. These are available at different amounts, and even as groups where, say, you get a ninja costume for Horn, along with several weapons to complete the ensemble.
Horn manages to hit the sweet spot between a casual game (it will periodically save on its own) and something for the more dedicated gamer (you’ll have to learn your way around town to complete all the missions, figure out simple puzzles, and dedicate yourself to solving a long game). The combat is repetitive, but the world is expansive, and visually it’s two steps ahead of almost every other iOS adventure game currently out there.