There are almost an infinite number of retro-styled games available on the Nintendo Switch. Some people say there are too many. I’m not one of them. Horizon Shift 81 is a another game that has been marinated in retro goodness. I can’t think of many things that developer Flump Studios has left out of their homage to shooters of the distant gaming past.

What’s on this Horizon?

Horizon Shift 81 is a single-screen, vertical, SHMUP where enemies come at you in waves. Your ship sits in the middle of the screen, along a line (the Horizon) that divides the screen into top and bottom sections. As enemies approach from either direction, you’re able to jump or flip from one side of the line to the other, in your attempt to stop them from reaching the horizon (the line your trying to defend).

When they do, they can react in a number of ways. Some enemies simply land on the horizon and you’re able to use a dash attack (more on this later) to knock them off. Others, like incoming asteroids, destroy whatever sections of the horizon they hit. Some land and then move back and forth across the horizon. None of them are trying to be your friend, trust me. Luckily, enemies aren’t the only thing that approach your precious horizon. Score bonuses, weapon upgrades, as well as an incredibly helpful double (and triple!) jump ability will also appear to try and grab. It’s all a blast to get lost in! That feeling of “just one more run…” is unavoidable with Horizon Shift 81.

Those Encroaching Bosses

Every handul of levels, you’ll run into a boss you’ll have to battle. The bosses are decently sized. They reminded me of giant Space Invaders. The bosses put up a respectable fight but came across as somewhat bullet-spongy to me. (I’m not skilled enough at shooters to have seen the end of the game by the time this went live so end-game content may change.)

Chasing that High Score

Horizon Shift 81 is a score chasers dream. That dash move I mentioned earlier is essential to racking up a serious score. Your dash can’t be used an unlimited amount of times. It’s set to a meter that refills. Dashing into enemies who’ve landed on your horizon causes them to fly off. If they happen to hit other enemies, you’ll receive a point bonus. You’ll also receive a little juice to help refill your dash meter. And that’s when you can start performing dash-chains, which can lead to some huge points.

At the end of your game, you’ll be shown your stats for that particular run. Your run time, total points and number of enemies killed along with how many power-ups you collected and how many aliens you saved are shown. (I honestly had no idea I was saving aliens at first. I was too busy trying to stay alive and keep my horizon line in one piece.)

Options Galore

Horizon Shift 81 has plenty of options to tailor the game to your tastes. The game includes three game modes. A traditional Arcade Classic mode. An Arranged mode where you start with one life and there’s a checkpoint after each level. And finally, there’s a Speed Up mode that’s not for the faint of heart. In this game mode, the game’s speed increases after every level. You can choose to begin at any of the checkpoints you’ve cleared in previous runs, when starting a new game.

There are 7 graphics modes to choose from when starting a game. They range from a pretty tame, classic retro to one with a blown out neon glow effect. You can also go into settings and find adjustable CRT and Scanline effects. There’s a “Glow” effect that can add to the intensity of the neon effects in the game. (I kept this turned relatively low). Finally, you also have two sidebars to choose from that serve to fill the remaining screen real estate if you’re playing in horizontal mode.

The thing that tops off this delicious SHMUP cake is the fact that the developer included the ability to play in TATE mode. Playing in TATE mode makes one crucial change to playing the game. It makes incoming waves much easier to see as they approach. (Anyone with a FlipGrip is going to love this game!!)

The Music, that sweet music…

The game’s music really caught me by surprise. From the main menu’s theme to the different tracks played during gameplay, everything was a joy to listen to. (The track that begins at level 7, in particular, was one of my favorites.) I actually found myself moving with the music at times. It was another high point of this title.

Conclusion

There’s no way around it, in my opinion. Horizon Shift 81 is a must have for any Switch owning SHMUP fan. There’s not another shooter like it on the eShop, currently. It offers an intense, addictive blend of retro action that I’ll be going back to whenever I need a retro fix. The one thing it’s lacking is online leaderboards. If they were to add that (and maybe adjust the bosses), it’d be perfect in this gamer’s opinion. (That sweet TATE mode in my FlipGrip… Can’t get over it.)

9/10 Must Have!!

Pros

  • Addictive Action (One more run!)
  • Tight Controls
  • Smooth difficulty curve
  • Nailed the Retro SHMUP look and feel

Cons

  • Bosses can be bullet sponges
  • No Online Leaderboards

chrisunseen

I'm a mature gamer. (nearly 47!) I can be opinionated and sarcastic, but I'm very laid back. And I love Nintendo more than any forty-something probably should. (They did help raise me.) I'm also the Editor-in-chief, here at The Nintendo Nomad. Hit me up anywhere you can find me on social media. I'm open to talking about almost any topic (because, politics...).

6 Comments

  • Adam SIF · December 23, 2018 at 10:49 am

    Great review Chris! The game sounds interesting but I’m not much of a SCHMUP fan lol! I’d love you to review Aqua Kitty DX. It’s a shooter/SHMUP where you have to protect cats mining for milk under the ocean!

      chrisunseen · December 23, 2018 at 11:37 am

      Hey Adam, thanks! I’ve been playing a lot shmups lately and didn’t even realize it. Lol! It’s one of my favorite retro genres to play. Aqua Kitty DX! Yes, I played that on my Switch a while ago. May be good to include in a review roundup I’m doing… It reminds me a lot of Defender from back in the day.

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