The first video game I ever played was F-Zero for the Super Nintendo. Santa brought it to 5-year-old-me and I remember liking the style of it, but overall I thought it was pretty boring. It wasn’t until later, with Donkey Kong Country, that I fell in love with video games. As the facts go though, a racing game was the first video game I ever played.
I have played many more since then, many even on my iPad, but none of them have really given me the same sort of experience that F-Zero gave me until I got my hands on Aquiris Game Studio’s Horizon Chase.
And no, not because Horizon Chase was boring. Quite the opposite, actually.
The sights and sounds of Horizon Chase gave me the same sort of feelings I remember having while playing F-Zero as a kid. The music is upbeat, catchy, and vaguely futuristic. The visuals look great without being top-of-the-line 3D graphics, and everything flows together seamlessly. Even at 130 miles per hour.
I was honestly impressed with the magical sweet spot they found for Horizon Chase’s graphics. They’re nowhere near as minimalist as Race the Sun, nor are they as flashy as AG Drive. Instead, they find a solid visual middle ground and proudly makes it their own.
The soundtrack by Barry Leitch was good enough that I turned down all the sound effects and let the music play over everything. I rarely listen to the soundtracks of mobile games; usually I keep the audio on long enough to verify that it is just as annoying as the last bubble-popping-matching game I played. But with Horizon Chase, my ears loved every minute of it.
So, clearly the audio and video of Horizon Chase are some of the best you could hope to find in a reasonably priced mobile racer.
If only I could say the same about the controls.
As you play through the game you’ll be able to upgrade the cars to improve their handling, acceleration, and so forth. However, there is a weird auto-turn gimmick that was more annoying than helpful. As you drive into the curves of the tracks, your car will shift slightly with them. It’s a weird feature that makes driving feel like you’re racing on a roller coaster rather than on a race track. You’re not totally locked in, but Horizon Chase is more than helpful with ensuring that you make those turns.
There are a number of pre-set control options available, one even enables tilt-based controls, but nothing for disabling the auto-turn system.
It’s not a game-breaking issue, but the auto-turning was certainly a nuisance. One which bugged me with every twist and turn of the track. Unlocking cars also was a bit annoying. The levels are broken into series based on locations around the world. Each series I played in has five races and to unlock new cars you have to place first in every race in that particular series. That’s no easy task.
The A.I. is impossibly fast at times. In many races I would pass the racers trailing in last place, yet the cars in first and second were nowhere in sight. Adding to that frustration was the fact that the A.I. can shift around almost instantly, and rear-ending them will propel them forward while slowing you down considerably. I found myself constantly being thrown backwards whenever I’d try to overtake a group of racers. The interactions are almost pinball-like, physics-wise. It’s just weird.
Aesthetically, Horizon Chase is exactly the sort of racing game that genre fans looking for a classic experience will want to check out. Unfortunately there are some odd mechanical implementations that make Horizon Chase feel a bit too wonky to net a full recommendation.