When you look at Flump Studios’ games there’s a clear progression, from title to title. From the low price, high value Pester, through to last year’s math-shooter, Super Killer Hornet Resurrection, it’s plain to see that the one man studio from England is honing its craft. Studio owner, Paul Marrable, seems to have a thing for old school arcade shooters and his latest title Horizon Shift continues his affinity for the genre.
As with most of Flump’s other games you’ll be in command of a diminutive spaceship, taking down wave after wave of enemies whilst dodging a barrage of oncoming bullets. Like all of Marrable’s games, though, Horizon Shift has its own “hook” – a little something to make it stand out from the rest of the crowd. This time around your ship is on a rail in the middle of the screen, the “horizon” if you will, but it’s actually not as restrictive as it may sound.
You can flip over to either side of the rail at any time you like, giving momentary respite from the incoming bullets, but it also doubles the challenge you’ll be facing. Enemies now swarm the screen from both sides meaning you need to be twice as aware of what’s coming for you. It’s a fairly tricky game that has chewed me up and spit me out over and over, but it’s never frustrating because of how cleverly designed your enemies are.
Horizon Shift‘s neon, vector-inspired enemies aren’t your usual mindless drones that thoughtlessly spread across the screen. They’re more clever than that, or rather, the way in which they work with other enemies is. No single enemy type on its own would provide much of a challenge, but with each having their own abilities, the correct (incorrect?) combination can cause you major headaches. There’s your bog standard enemy that shoots back at you, turret-like enemies that fire tricky patterns of bullets across the screen, larger swarms of enemies that act as one, and “breakers” that destroy part of your rail, meaning you’ll need to jump over a large hole to reach the other parts.
Things can get very hectic, very quickly, so it’s worthwhile to prioritise which enemies to take out first. Breakers and turrets are sure to cause the most problems, so I opted to take them out as soon as I could. Fortunately, there’s some simple power ups to help you, and you also have the ability to blast away every enemy on the screen, at the expense of your combo bar. There’s also a mirror power up which allows you to control a clone of yourself on the other side of the screen for double the destructive fun! Bosses and mini games also make an appearance now and then, mixing up the gameplay formula a little, in a move I’ve come to expect from Flump.
Even as a pre-release copy Horizon Shift is easily the best thing to come out of Flump Studios. It’s a step up from the studios previous games, in all departments. Not only is it the most visually appealing game to come out of the company, it is by far the most challenging and enjoyable. There’s no release date yet, but hopefully it isn’t too far over the horizon.