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Horizon Shift Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Don't let the retro-inspired visuals fool you; Horizon Shift is one of the year's best shoot-em-ups. Switching sides and jumping around the screen may not sound like much, but they become a game changer thanks to Flump Studios. It's not without a few missed opportunities, but Horizon Shift is the best $5 you will spend today. Rating: 78%
Horizon Shift
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  • Review Score:

  • B+
For me, the lure of the 2D shoot-em-up has never been the fast-paced action or twitch gameplay. Sure, gunning down aliens may be fun, but it's not the reason I get excited every time I boot up a new shooter. What draws me to the genre is its simplicity, and how that allows developers of all ages and experience levels to create action games that showcase their unique personalities. This is a genre that is still adding fresh and creative ideas more than fifty years after its inception, and shooters show no sign of slowing down.

Horizon Shift is the perfect example of what I'm talking about. At first glance, this retro-inspired shooter looks exactly like a dozen other games, but the differences become clear the moment you take control. Thanks to a clever gimmick, Flump Studios has turned this Space Invaders wannabe into a shoot-em-up unlike anything I've ever played before.

You control a small polygonal space ship that slides across a thin line stretching across the center of the screen. Like so many old school shooters from the early 8-bit era, enemies will begin to filter in from above, forcing the little space ship to race back and forth shooting up at anything that gets in the way.

This is all standard shooter fare until you notice that the enemies aren't only coming from above, but also below. What sets Horizon Shift apart from the pack is the player's ability to switch directions. By simply pushing up and down on the D-pad, the ship will shift, allowing players to take out all of the enemies, no matter which direction they come from.

This is such a simple idea that I'm a little surprised I haven't seen it used countless times in the past. Switching sides couldn't be simpler, and it allows the developers to add a few new twists to the formula. For one thing, the thin white line will often act as a barrier, shielding our ship from taking enemy fire. However, the line can be chipped away, and it's not impervious to all bullets. Horizon Shift is a lot more difficult than it looks.

Horizon Shift (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The game does a great job of adding variety as you play through the campaign. You'll see a wide variety of interesting enemies, each with their own quirks to figure out. There are also a number of obstacles you won't be able to destroy, such as lasers. And for those who like to pick at the game little by little, Horizon Shift has checkpoints after every boss.

On top of shifting from one side to the other, the tiny ship is capable of avoiding enemy fire with a handy double jump. There are also a number of power-up items to collect, including one that puts a ship on each side of the line. While beneficial, dodging bullets on both sides simultaneously can spiral out of control very quickly. And when that happens, it's time to unleash the powerful bomb, destroying everything on the screen.

These power-ups are fine, but they feel a bit pedestrian when compared to the rest of the game. It would have been nice to see special items that did more to play up the shooter's unique premise. The same goes for the backgrounds, which don't seem to change much from one stage to the next. Thankfully, the game continues to introduce new enemies and bosses throughout the lengthy campaign, but it would have been nice to see more variety in the locations.

Horizon Shift (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

I also wish Flump Studios would have done more to flesh out the platforming elements. While the double jump is useful and welcomed, there isn't much to do with it apart from dodging enemies and bullets. It would have been nice to be able to jump on floating objects or even use the ability to kill certain enemies.

Aside from a few minor nitpicks, Horizon Shift is a great example of a developer coming up with a fresh take on a classic formula. Best of all, it's cheap, coming in at just $5. Had this been at my local arcade in 1991, you better believe I would have sunk more than $5 into this addictive shoot-em-up. And when it comes to old arcade games, that's high praise.
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