Long ago in a galaxy far, far away…Wait, no that’s not right. However, there is an Intergalactic Corporation known as the Federation, and a group of rebels in the latest sci-fi on-rails space shooter entitled Star Horizon for the Nintendo Switch. Will John, the space pilot hero of this game be as cool as Han Solo, or will this game land itself in a space junkyard?
All right, so admittedly I haven’t played a rails game since Panzer Dragoon Orta on the original Xbox. It’s a fairly rare genre, but one that has had a rich history of amazing titles, including Pokémon Snap and Star Fox 64. I was excited at the prospect of diving into Star Horizon as my return to this genre with intense space battles.
Immediately upon starting the campaign, you’ll be introduced to your space faring rebel pilot named John and his ship’s AI Ellie, who handles more situations than not. During a large conflict with the Federation, all seems lost, but Ellie is able to FTL you both out of danger and into unfamiliar space. John wakes up from stasis confused and running low on oxygen thanks to a malfunction from the prior battle, and thus begins your space adventure.
As mentioned, Star Horizon is an on-rails space shooter, which means the camera will move around on its own through the environment, while you remain in control of the ship within the screen space, allowing you to move up, down left, right, etc. Even if you’ve never played a game like this, the controls are easy to figure out and even doing barrel rolls to dodge incoming fire is a cinch. Additionally, you’ll have access to three weapons aboard your ship, each serving a strategic function. Your basic lasers do the trick for the constant dogfighting and thankfully never overheat. You’re also given torpedoes and a swarm missile system each attached to a button and that auto-reload rather quickly with infinite ammo as well. This means you’ll never feel taxed on ammo, and can really go into your space fights guns blazing. No tedious micromanaging here!
Combat is tied to placing your rather large boundary box reticle at an enemy and then pressing the shoot buttons on any of your weapons. The game handles all the rest for auto-targeting/aiming. Unfortunately, this was one of my early, and main complaints about the game. Combat is just oversimplified a bit too much, and I wished for maybe a smaller targeting box to allow me a bit more manual control over where my ship would fire. Simply put, the targeting box is too large and allows for multiple enemies to bite the dust too easily.
There’s a storyline and progression to Star Horizon as well, and it rides many of the space tropes and fictions that have long existed, so don’t expect anything radically out there. It feels like a “B-movie” script, and that’s just fine here because we’re not looking at a Mass Effect sized developed game, but immediately I still found myself becoming utterly annoyed at how many times I was referenced to by my first name “John”. In fact, in the opening missions, nearly every sentence started with “John, this, and John, that” and continued throughout most of the script of the game. That being said, the voice over work for all of the dialog is pretty decent, and they hired some fun acting voices to handle many of the characters.
Visually the game is fairly pretty, with some flaws though. There are a wide variety of ship types to experience, and indeed you’ll come across large cruiser ships, space stations, and more. The game does an OK job of placing the camera in position for the best possible angle and it was fun to fly around the obstacles, and even at times right through them! I would have liked to see this pushed even further for more dramatic experiences – something you’d see in a movie. As it is there was too much relaxed space piloting for my tastes. Most ships looked pretty cool at a distance, but as you got closer the low quality textures stood out and many objects were very low polygon, which detracted from the overall enjoyment of the game.
During your time in the campaign you’ll also have opportunities to spend your earned credits on ship upgrades. These include more effective weapon systems and armor, as well as increasing how cool your ship will look like by the end. The game’s entire progression is across 10 missions, and roughly 2-3 hours of gameplay, depending on how adamant you are about trying to 3-star missions, which aren’t objectively clear as to what those requirements are.
Having been away from the on-rails genre for quite some time, Star Horizon certainly was easy to manage and play, and I think for most it’ll be too easy with not enough exciting gameplay to make the effort worthwhile. The script for the game was certainly awkward, but it wasn’t terrible in total, and if you want a budget ship shooting game, there’s still a decent space adventure here, but expectations should be tempered.
Star Horizon Review
- Graphics - 6/106/10
- Sound - 6.5/106.5/10
- Gameplay - 4/104/10
- Lasting Appeal - 3/103/10
Final Thoughts: MEDIOCRE
Star Horizon is a pretty standard on-rails shooter set in space. Basic gameplay and an extremely lenient auto-targeting system make for a fairly dull experience. Visuals, voice overs, and graphics are pretty decent here, but overall there’s much to be desired.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.