Zynga. Say the name, and some people turn up their nose in disgust. These are the people who brought us FarmVille and CityVille, right? Who wants anything to do with them?
Well, you might change your mind once you check out Horn. Built using the Unreal Engine, the game is part Infinity Blade, part The Legend of Zelda and tells a pretty interesting story. But is it worth your hard earned cash? Let’s go on an adventure and find out.
Begin Your Quest
When you start off playing Horn (which is also the name of the main character), you’re given a little bit of a backstory about who you are, where you came from and what’s going on — but you really don’t know anything. You’ve woken up in the middle of a tower, and you have no idea how you got there. All you have is a sword, your wits and a horn.
As you travel about, you discover these large monsters — the often robot-shaped Pygons — that don’t want you anywhere near them. Your job is to find out what happened to your village, and free your fellow villagers, some of whom have been transformed into those very monsters.
To get about and go to various locales, you touch the screen to move your character along. At any point you can move your viewpoint as well, just by holding your finger on the screen and moving it about. This gives you perspective, and also helps during the battles you’ll come across. You’ll need to grab pygite shards (used to upgrade your equipment) along the way, as well as open various doors and objects using this same touch mechanic. It’s not the easiest thing to control — sometimes your character goes beyond where you want them to — but it’s better than other options I’ve used.
When I said the game was part Infinity Blade, I meant it. The battle portions are taken straight from the game, right down to some of the basic gestures — come across a bad guy and swipe to slash them to bits with your sword. But where Horn differs is the ability to move your character around the baddies. By touching the curved arrows on the bottom corners of the screen, you can roll around the enemy to gain a better position or just attack them at their weak point. In addition, you can jump and do a few other cool things as the game goes on.
The Adventure Part
The second component of the game is the more Zelda-esque aspect, the adventure portion of the game. This is where you wander around collecting stuff and trying to discover secrets. You can also find new weapons, build a few bombs (named Pybooms) or just wander about the wreckage to see new things.
In a traditional adventure game, this would be my favorite part. But the problem is that the navigation is so difficult to control that you can’t fine tune your movements to enter doorways or go down a hallway. If you can’t run down a path or slide down a thin ledge, then you don’t have any other options. This does make the game a bit more frustrating, and made me less likely to explore. The result was that I tended to run through various places, do what I had to do, then search for the next fight.
There can be no doubt that this is one of the prettier games out there for the iOS platform. Although you can use it on an iPhone 3GS and second-gen iPad, this really is best viewed on a Retina display device. There you get the rich colors and bold feel. It’s quite pretty, that’s for sure.
The high definition graphics do cause your device to heat up quite a bit, however. In my tests with both my new iPad and iPhone 4S, I could feel the processor getting hot after a few minutes of play. It wasn’t enough to burn me or anything, but understand that there is some serious horsepower under the hood.
iPad Vs. iPhone
Although the controls are the same between the two different machines, actually playing the game is a different story. I discovered that navigation was much easier on the iPad, which made sense; you can see more of the ground in front of you, and therefore, pinpoint your position more directly. But other movements seemed difficult, and unless you’re sitting down with the iPad on your lap, it’s not very easy to play. With the iPad, this is definitely a two-handed game.
As for the iPhone, I enjoyed twisting and turning while playing, and there weren’t a ton of drawbacks with the controls (minus the aforementioned navigation issues, of course). However, the game is very dark in places, and although both my iPad and iPhone 4S have Retina displays, it was more difficult to make out certain shapes on the iPhone just because of the size. If I had to pick between the two devices, I’d go with the iPad, but fortunately this is a universal app so you can go either way (although, there is no iCloud syncing, so you would play two separate games on each device).
Horn is probably going to be remembered as a game that pushed the boundaries of the iOS platform, but didn’t really do so in a spectacular fashion. Yes, the game is very pretty, and yes, the concept is just fine. But at the core of it, you have to like the character you’re playing and empathize with their role. I didn’t get that with Horn, and not relating to the character meant that I didn’t want to play as much.
But maybe I’m looking at it too deeply. At its core, the game is still a lot of fun, even with the navigation issues. It’s not the most original concept, nor is it breaking new ground in the genre. But for the iOS platform, it’s definitely treading new ground. Sure, there are a few bumps in the road, but it’s still definitely worth your time.