Horn (universal) by Zynga is not the title most would expect from the big social game publisher: developed by Phosphor Games - the team behind The Dark Meadow - Horn is a 3D action-adventure title that pushes the boundaries of current generation iOS devices, both in its technical execution, and its well-crafted coming of age tale.
To explain the plot of Horn would be to ruin the experience – it’s a tale of mystery and discovery that has all the twists and turns of console counterparts like the Zelda series. After a cinematic opening, players take control of a young man whose town and world are thrown upside down by a unexplained, traumatic event. Finding himself in a broken down world inhabited by huge mechanical beings, Horn’s journey is one of blockbuster proportions.
Without playing the game for a minute, it’s immediately clear the amount of care and precision put into creating the game’s atmosphere and story. There are some iOS games attempting to tell complex narratives, but the elegant fashion its executed in Horn is singular to the platform. Beautiful 3D cutscenes full of effects and warm colors are paired with a majestic orchestral soundtrack, written by Austin Wintory, a man whose sound has been heard in everything from video games to Sundance indie films.
Those aesthetics keep the game interesting, even when the playing experience itself feels stop-and-go at times. Between each recorded sequence, players control Horn in a limited open world environment, traversing the landscape and fighting enemies in a number of different ways. Unfortunately, the gameplay sections of the game don’t blend in particularly well with the different events, leaving the experience feeling a bit jerky at times.
The game’s controls are its other weakness, relying on a PC-like tap on the screen to move to a certain area. It leads to instances where players get stuck in hallways until they move around the camera and tap their way out of a corner. It would feel a lot more natural with a virtual d-pad, giving players the freedom to roam and explore a little more, and less like a purposely restrictive control option.
But despite a few shortcomings, the graphics and storytelling of Horn immediately place it in the upper echelon of iOS games. A benchmark title for any iPhone 4S and new iPad, Horn is a must-buy for serious gamers, and anyone looking for a console-quality gaming experience.