Fans of the popular Zelda series are probably frustrated they can't play their favorite Zelda game in the App Store. Phosphor Games hopes to fill that fantasy/adventure void with Horn. Do they succeed? Yes and no.
You play as Horn, a young blacksmith's apprentice who finds his village has been taken over by large creatures. Only these creatures are actually the animals and humans who used to live in the village. With your crossbow, weapons and the help of a grouchy sidekick, you must explore the land, fight the monsters and try to break the curse.
The first thing you'll notice while playing Horn is how gorgeous the environments are. They really did a great job with the environment and character models. Backgrounds looked good. The game reminded me of Fable as I played it. Which is a compliment. It's too bad I wasn't a fan of the rest of the game.
It's not Horn's lengthy, talky and rather dull storyline that had me turned off -- it was the controls. Instead of offering a directional pad, you tap on the ground where you want Horn to walk. Which is fine, but many times Horn would just continue running past where I tapped so I kept wondering why they would go with such an annoying control scheme. You have to swipe to look around, then tap, tap some more, swipe some more, tap. Just give me a stupid joystick already. The first 20 minutes of Horn consisted of two fights and nothing but tapping in-between the constant cut scenes.
Another reason the control scheme bothered me is all it did was delay gameplay. It's as if I was playing the game's tech demo and they forgot to omit some things. If Horn has to jump a great distance, he'll do so automatically. But you must tap the screen when you get close to the ledge so he doesn't fall. Then when you're dangling, swipe up and he'll climb up. Why? There's no penalty for just hanging there because Horn won't fall if I don't do anything. You can swipe down and he won't drop down. Even if he did fall, in some areas of the game he jumps off heights twice as high and does a barrel roll like nobody's business. Just have him make the jump, programmers. There's no need to slow the game down and make me tap the screen then swipe up. And don't get me started on how you have to swipe slow as you're hugging a wall. Talk about bringing an already slow game to a screeching halt.
When you do eventually fight, the game plays like Infinity Blade or Batman Arkham City Lockdown. Dodge attacks, then swipe like a madman on screen. Sometimes you'll have to jump and when you're coming down, perform a counter-attack that will stun your opponent. After the fight, you'll receive some worthless battle statistics. To be honest, I found the fights to be rather dull. In fact, the entire game is pretty dull. Maybe I'm just tired of developers trying to hide a boring game behind some nice looking water.
Horn has some puzzles, but they're not difficult. The one puzzle I found was wondering where to go next, but a giant blue light beaming down from the sky will tell you. A couple of times Horn just got stuck, and no matter where I tapped he wouldn't move. I had to pause the game and head back to another area to unfreeze it. Like I said, Horn seems more of a tech demo than it does an actual finished product.
Because Horn is a blacksmith's apprentice, he knows his way around some iron. You can craft weapons and amulets to use in battle. You can also upgrade your weapons if you have enough Pygite and Pygon Cores. You will find various blueprints scattered around that will allow you to craft various weaponry. You can also purchase different outfits, but they're very expensive and will require constant currency mining. Which is fun if this is the only game you have downloaded and you're stranded on a deserted island with a wall outlet. If you're lazy you can just buy extra pygite and cores. They even have a package called the King's Royal Gift. An in-app purchase bargain at only $49.99!
Horn ran OK on the new iPad. I did notice some stuttering and popup in certain areas. Not to mention Horn himself froze on me a couple of times. Nothing an update couldn't fix, I'm sure. The game does look quite sharp on the new iPad's amazing retina display. If you like eye candy there's worse out there, that's for sure. Voice over work was fantastic and the score was pretty incredible. There's a lot of production value in Horn, just not a lot of exciting gameplay.
If you're a Zelda nut, you'll probably enjoy what Horn has to offer. I was bored with its story, fights and the main character got annoying after a while. I'd rather spend more time with Infinity Blade II even though it's a much more linear and restrictive game. There's quite a bit to like here, but the controls and slow gameplay didn't win me over. It's gotten nothing but praise since its release, but for me, Horn kinda blew.