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Game Review #077: Horizon Shift '81 (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Frank W.

Developer: Flump Studios

Publisher: Funbox Media

Category: Arcade, Action, Shoot 'em Up

Release Date: 12.20.2018

Buy Horizon Shift '81 from the Nintendo eShop here.

Another Love Letter

I know it's been said, but it can’t be said enough: Horizon Shift ‘81 is an absolute banger of a love letter to the neon-lit arcade days of the '80s. With a HUGE attention to detail, it’s clear the developers loved the visual style of those days as well, offering a massive amount of visual customizations, as well as one of my absolute favorite features that unexpectedly came from the Switch, playing the game vertically so it is like the arcade shoot ‘em up games of yore!

Bright, Shiny & Pumping

This game offers a killer soundtrack with pumping beats that will keep your toes tapping and your trigger finger itching all day long, and then will be stuck in your head for days to come. Horizon Shift ‘81 is a wave-based shoot ‘em up game rather than having distinct levels, but as you progress, you will fight bosses that change up the formula, as well as the visual style shifting always. This game is an absolute treat to look at, with bright explosions, big bold lines everywhere, and geometric shapes being re-purposed into war machines. I found myself with a smile on my face as I played, even from just a visual standpoint.

The gameplay does a TON of interesting things, and it is deserving of its own section, and will you look at that, just under this! A whole section dedicated to the awesome twists and turns this game puts on the genre. What a treat! Read on and lets really get into the meat and potatoes of this game that is deserving of a spot in your library!

A Little Bit of Everything Shoot-‘Em-Up

You got your shoot ‘em up games, right? You have your R-type-style horizontal shooter, where 9 times out of 10, you will be on the left side, progressing right to a boss or the end of the stage. Then you have your vertical shooters, which is where most bullet-hell games reside, where you will normally be on the bottom of the screen scrolling up. Touhou, Dodonpachi, and Raiden are good examples of this. Horizon Shift ‘81 takes the formula and turns it on its head, by putting a horizontal line right in the middle of a vertically-oriented screen and tying you to that line essentially. Enemies come from the top and the bottom of the screen, flipping back and forth as you blast them into pixels.

There are many kinds of enemies that have to be dealt with quickly, and it really has a ton of variety. There are your normal bullet-shooting enemies that fly around shooting at you, as per your usual fare, but then we get a little more interesting, with enemies that make their way towards what is referred to as “The horizon”, which is the horizontal line your character operates off of, and they will cling to it and move around on that while you will have to deal with them in a little bit of a less traditional way… by clearing off your horizon with an invincible dash!

It is on a cool down, but it is certainly satisfying to fly down your horizon and clear out all the enemies that have made their home on it! Adding to mechanics that have to do with your horizon, you will also run into huge asteroids coming slowly towards your horizon. If they make contact, they will temporarily destroy the horizon, which can end badly for you, as you fall to your doom at the top or the bottom of the screen! Unless of course, you can deftly use your ability to jump to hop over it and continue your defense, which feels absolutely fantastic.

Wrapping Up

Dealing with so many elements at once can feel a little overwhelming, but it's the '80s, baby! We are taking quarters and playing for keeps on this one, but you have a lot of arsenal on your side to even the odds against the invading enemies, from homing rockets, super-fast firing machine guns, shot guns, and things like a double jump, turrets, an item that shoots out from your back, and more! And when things get TOO intense, you build up a bar for your bomb that will wipe the entire screen out in spectacular fashion. This game has such awesome feedback visually, and makes great use of the HD rumble contained within the Joy-Cons, tied together with a kicking soundtrack and tight gameplay. It is worthy of any platform you can get it on, but the portability of the Switch, mixed with the ability to play vertically, really hammers home that is the best place to enjoy this game! For $9.99 you can’t do much better, I give Horizon Shift ‘81, an 8.1/10!

Final Score: 8.1/10

Buy Horizon Shift '81 from the Nintendo eShop here.

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*Review Code Provided by Funbox Media

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