We’ve been reviewing a lot of retro-inspired indie games here on Infinite Frontiers, haven’t we? We even dropped our “Shakedown: Hawaii” review over on Vita Player. With no shortage of new-old-stock 8-bit games, how does “Horizon Shift ’81” fare? Let’s find out.
This title is a definite call-back to the good ol’ arcade days. There’s no story here as such, this is a shoot-em-up from the get-go. Aliens, ships, etc. The truth is that if you give “Horizon Shift ’81” a passing glance, you could mistake it for a “Space Invaders” clone from back in the day. But it kinda is more than that. And it isn’t.
Visually, it takes the concept forward quite a bit, making everything look fresh, but without breaking the overall aesthetic language of the era. It is in the gameplay, however, that “Horizon Shift ’81” feels unique.
It’s fast, it’s frantic, it’s manic and it’s fantastic. You see, this is a game for lovers of the genre: it is unapologetically difficult, and that’s fine by me. If you’re playing a “Space Invaders” look-alike in 2019, chances are that you’re a fan of the genre. Therefore, you’ve probably played quite a few shoot-em-ups in your day. You’re experienced. You’re good. You’re gonna die a lot in this game, and there’s no two ways about that.
But the enemies are super varied, the music sounds fantastic, the retro art is drop-dead gorgeous (even though it definitely hankers back to a relatively primitive era in gaming) and the controls are super, super tight. If you’re not into retro art, and are looking for a AAA open world experience, this is definitely not the game for you.
That said, if you’re into shoot-em-ups and enjoy a good challenge, and particularly if you have a soft spot for retro games and indie games, the incredibly well-together package presented by “Horizon Shift ’81” is a compelling one: the enemy variety alone makes this game stand out from among its peers. It’s good bang for the buck, and it’s one hell of a ride. It’s not for everyone, though, but I think you knew that going in.