Want Proof That Mobile Games are Catching Up to Consoles? Play Horn.

Illustration for article titled Want Proof That Mobile Games are Catching Up to Consoles? Play Horn.

With The Dark Meadow, Phosphor Games Studio proved it could make a game that looked as good as a console title, but the sinister shooter's limited on-rails gameplay was strictly mobile-grade.


This week, in conjunction with Zynga, Phosphor released its latest Unreal Engine 3 powered mobile game, Horn, and it's every bit as rich and satisfying as any console adventure game — and better than many.

Named for both its hero and the magical instrument he carries, Horn tells the tale of a blacksmith's apprentice that awakens from a long sleep to find the countryside overrun by large stone creatures. His village is deserted; in fact the entire land seems devoid of human life. After encountering, beheading and semi-befriending one of the countryside's rock inhabitants (the cruel and witty Gourd), Horn discovers that these creatures are actually cursed animals and people, and only he has the power to change them back.

And then it's adventure time.

Free of rails, Horn can travel as he pleases through this fantasy world, fingers tapped on the screen guiding him through the stunning scenery. A salvaged wrist-mounted crossbow aids his exploration, acting as a weapon, a puzzle-solving mechanic, and a grappling hook all at once. In his travels he also uncovers ancient songs that affect powerful magics when played on his horn, shades of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Combat with Horn's unique collection of crystalized creatures is slightly more limited than exploration. Our hero is locked in a path that circles his enemies, finger-slashing to expose weak spots and tapping left and right to dodge.

Being a blacksmith apprentice, Horn forges his own weapons and equipment, transmuting found (or purchased via the in-game store) materials into powerful swords, hammers, axes and pole arms capable of piercing the stony hides of his foes. This, as they say, is where they get you — the lure of spending a few dollars on more powerful items is strong. I might have dropped a couple of bucks already.

Illustration for article titled Want Proof That Mobile Games are Catching Up to Consoles? Play Horn.

The game's beautiful visuals and complex mechanics are bolstered by a story and characters more fully-formed than anything I've experienced on a mobile phone. Spoken snippets of witty dialog between Horn and his decapitated stone head companion, Gourd, reveal bits and pieces of the game's backstory, with voice work that's a cut above that normally found in a mobile title. Around every corner there are odd new creatures, communicating more with their strange silent behaviors than many game characters do with a Hollywood actor behind the mic.

Horn is delightful, charming and completely unpredictable. Every time I think I've got the game figured out, it throws me a curve. I reach my goal, expecting to be shunted on to the next, and then the victory music drops and a wrench is thrown into the mix.


Every time a new Unreal Engine 3 powered game comes to iOS and/or Android (the Tegra version of Horn should be out next week), developers go on and on about how they've made a console-quality title for a mobile platform. Horn's success in achieving that goal speaks for itself.

Horn $6.99 [iTunes]


Jonathan Ponikvar

I'm sorry if this comes off as sounding repetitive from others who have said it before me, or even a bit elitist... but I'm really tired of these articles claiming that mobile games are "catching up" to consoles. That is just NOT true, and I doubt it ever will be.

A game might look nice on the iPhone, but it will never play as well as on a console. There is no standardized controller for any iDevice, and touch-screen controls/virtual dpads and buttons just do not offer the same experience as a physical controller. Every single game I've ever seen on the iPhone that is touted as a flagship example of mobile gaming "catching up to consoles" has been a flashy graphics-heavy glorified quicktime event or a massive tap-the-screen-to-win mess. Or, even worse, a concept that was done in dozens of games prior, but is just given a catchy cartoony skin (i.e. Angry Birds).

Mobile games are no threat to consoles, or even dedicated handheld systems. I'm sorry, but this is never going to change, no matter how many times people try to make that claim. I would rather pay the extra money for a dedicated console with a physical, tangible controller and high-quality titles than get a low-budget, flash-heavy $.99 game on an over-glorified cell phone.

You can say the games are fun ways to spend a few minutes, or even to sink in the hours if you really enjoy the medium that much. But don't try to equate these app store titles with AAA games on home consoles, or even on 3DS or the Vita. There is no comparison.