Horn can be described as 'Legend of Zelda meets Infinity Blade on your iOS device', with the developers of The Dark Meadow holding the reins. Do you still need an excuse to download Zynga's amazing The Horn?
When it comes to gaming on the iPad, most people tend to agree that Infinity Blade pretty much lays down the benchmark in terms of gameplay and graphics. If it has a flaw, it is that it tends to be monotonous and is basically nothing other than a hack and slash affair, albeit one with staggeringly high-quality graphics.
But what if someone could take those amazing looks of Infinity Blade and blend a solid storyline and elements of puzzle solving into it? Well, that is what Phosphor Games Studio (they who gave us the eerie The Dark Meadow) and Zynga have tried to deliver with Horn. Mind you, at an 800 MB-plus download and a $6.99 price tag, it does not come cheap. But once you have downloaded the game and got underway, it is one glorious ride.
The story revolves around Horn, a blacksmith's apprentice in the mystical city of Rynes. He lives with his aunt and is on the brink of manhood (these gaming heroes almost always are) but then wakes up one day to find himself in a strange tower. Stepping out, he sees a world replate with lush grass, flowing water and (here comes the catch) monsters that seem right out of some medieval Transformers film. They are huge and generally are not overfond of human company, which means that Horn has to pick up weapons and battle them time and again. Of course, by and by, he also discovers that the fate of the world is in his hands and depends on his victory (all those mechanised brutes are actually the folk of the town he lives in). Which means - you guessed it - more fighting. You get an unusual and downright loony sidekick along the way but for the most part, it is down to you, your trusty sword and crossword, you musical horn (aha!) and your little grey cells.
The fight bits certainly are reminsicent of Infinity Blade as you take on brutes that are many times your size and move ponderously but with destructive intent. However, where Horn differs significantly is in the addition of a number of puzzle and adventure elements - there are levers to be thrown, arrows to be shot at targets and ledges to be climbed. Horn has to collect a number of magical stones to set things right, and doing these involves a fair bit of head scratching. Yes, it is rather linear in nature and you cannot stray too far from where the developers want you to go. It is a bit like dungeons with puzzles thrown in, which is a nice mix. You can get new weapons by spending some of the money you come across and if in real strife, can also spend real money, but if you play carefully enough, you will find yourself with a nicely stacked purse.
Gameplay is refreshingly fluid and intuitive. There is no onscreen gamepad and you play the game entriely by taps and swipes on different parts of the screen, which is how we think games should be played on touchscreens anyway. And you can make leaps, hang off ledges and even while battling, can roll under blows and actually go behind your enemy and inflict some damage while they lumber around. And don't get too worried by the Zynga connection - this is mainly an offline game and not one played on your social networks!
But what really stands out Horn is its presentation. The graphics are absolutely top notch, the music superb and the voice-acting (something that does tend to get ignored on mobile platforms) is brilliant. Top that off with a storyline that does enough to keep you riveted and we have perhaps a game that can rival Infinity Blade in the flaunt-iPad-as-agaming-device stakes.
Yes, Horn does have its flaws. It guzzles resources like a Formula One car feeding on fuel during the last lap of a race - it works best on the new iPad and even on it, tends to slow down and stutter at times with screen blackouts occuring (forget about playing this on the original iPad please). We also must confess that while it does look spectacular, it does not have quite the graphical polish and finesse of Infinity Blade when it comes to appearance and gameplay. Finally, there is the price tag which honestly is a bit on the high side. We also wish it would come sooner to Android (it is expected to arrive soon on Android), especially given the quad core processing muscle available on some Android devices.
That said, it cannot be denied that Horn marks a significant step forward for iOS and indeed mobile gaming for it is perhaps the first title to attempt to blend intuitive touch-based gameplay with the graphics that phones and tablets are capable of delivering. The result is something that is well and truly in console territory. Definitely a must-have for all mobile gaming fans. Yes, even at $6.99.
Available from: iTunes App Store