Monday, January 7, 2019

Horizon Shift '81 (Nintendo Switch) Review

One studio that I'm always looking forward to be playing their games from is Flump Studios.  They made some of the most high quality neo-retro shmups such as Horizon Shift and Hyper Bounce Blast.  (I reviewed Hyper Bounce Blast ages ago in my early video review days.)  Now they are back with Horizon Shift '81 for the Nintendo Switch.  What are you waiting for?  Let's kick in with the review already shall we? (Click on "Read More" to read the full review.)




This game takes the classic 1980's shmup style and turns it on its head by mixing in platforming elements.  The player has a line in the center of the field that they must stay on, while evil aliens attack from both the top and bottom of the screen.  The player can attack both ways by hitting up or down to change between layers.  A lot of bullets can get you no matter if you are facing up or down, however, this isn't always the case.  You can dodge enemy fire by switching between layers and you can even jump.  This isn't the only thing to look out for, baddies can also attach themselves to the line and the way to get rid of them is by using the slide attack, a very useful attack indeed.  Some baddies can't even be killed by regular fire, so you'll need to find a clever way to destroy.  Some baddies can destroy sections of the line and you'll fall off if you go into the blank spaces, losing a life.

Just like any classic shmup, baddies will come in waves and after a certain amount of waves, a big boss will show up.  Don't worry, you do get an array of power-ups that will help you out and you can also earn screen clearing bombs.  Don't be afraid, if you aren't good at these types of games, there's a checkpoint system.  When you get game over, you can just restart the game from the last checkpoint.  Downside is that checkpoints only happen after certain waves, so it can be heck just trying to get to one.  You'll also get special bonus levels that'll pop-up.  These stages change the way the game plays because it turns the game into a Break Out tribute.  I had a lot of fun with these special stages but I always sucked at them, they get tricky.

This game is incredibly fun and satisfying to play.  I had a blast blasting things with its smooth controls and charming theme.  It does get very hard though and it did make me rage but that didn't stop me from putting the game down, it's that addictive.  There's quite a few different modes that will change the way the game is played.  They are only minor changes such as making the game more fast, more difficult, and even changing when the checkpoints pop up.  They are fun to play but not as fun as the standard mode.  They should be checked out though, they are worth playing at least once or twice and even Thrice.

If you're playing this with the default screen settings, you're playing the game wrong.  The best way to play is in tate mode, where the game is sideways and fills up the entire screen.  It's not easy to do that on most televisions but playing this in handheld mode will get you there.  Seriously, this mode enhances everything about this game and pumps it up to 11. It makes it hard to go back to playing this the regular way.  It also harms the game for that same reason too.  It makes you wonder why you should be playing it on the TV, making this feature its biggest blessing and curse. (I'm probably just saying that because I love shmups.  Most gamers probably won't even care about this feature as much as I.) 

The problem I have with the controls in tate mode is that you can't invert them, if you are playing with the controls attached to the system.  If you want to play the game in this mode with the controllers attached, you can buy accessories that will enable you to do that. Spending more money on accessories just to fix this problem, sucks eggs.  It would be nice to see a patch that adds inverted controls.  Heck!  It'll make playing tate mode on TVs to be more interesting, it'll turn it into a horizontal shooter.


The graphics go for a simplistic look and this isn't a bad thing.  The look works and the graphics are awesome and really capture the look and feel of 1980's arcade games, while being its own thing at the same time.  There's a lot of fun to be had and it is a real treat for the eyes.  This game does take good advantage of modern day technology to enhance the classic arcade feel.  What do I mean by that?  I mean that this game can have more things happening at once, something that a lot of old games couldn't do. Seeing all of the crazy action mixed in with the retro inspired graphics makes for one hell of a fun looking game.

If you're not playing this in tate mode, you'll see boarders surrounding the game.  The boarders are fun to look at but you'll soon be swapping back to tate mode because it has a better atmosphere.  There are also a few screen settings that'll change the way the game looks.  They aren't anything special, they just try to emulate the scanlines and bubbly look of the old arcade screens.  They get too distracting, so I just turn them off.


The soundtrack sounds like something right from the arcades, with it's awesome sounding chiptune soundtrack and classic sounding sound effects.  (Yeah, I used "sound" six times.)  It added a lot of fun atmosphere and went perfectly with all of the other elements that make this game.  It'll also make you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.

Overall, Horizon Shift '81 is another really good game from Flump Studios.  If you want a good shmup then this is for you, even if you aren't a fan of the genre, there's something here for everyone.  I'd love to see this game released as an actual arcade cab.  Only real problem (which is also not a problem) is that playing tate mode while the system is in handheld, completely steals the show and takes away nearly all reason to play this game on TV.

TV Mode is still okay, but having the game dead right center while surrounded by boarders just doesn't give off as fun of an atmosphere as handheld tate mode.  For those reasons, I'm going to give this game two different scores.  Horizon Shift '81 in handheld tate mode gets a great score of 8 out of 10.  TV Mode, this game still gets a good score of a 7 out of 10, so you're getting a fine game no matter what.

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