Horn for iPhone: A diamond in the rough ready for extraction

Horn review
Horn review

Infinity Blade showed us that games with gorgeous looks on our smartphones were possible. Today, Horn is here to show you that the tiny computer in your pocket is capable of oh, so much more. Developed by Phosphor Games Studio and published by Zynga (that's not a typo), Horn talked a big game when Zynga first showed it off earlier this summer.

And now that it's available in the App Store, it's clear that it has more than enough bite to back up its bark. However, there's no dancing around it: Horn takes some obvious cues from what Chair started with Infinity Blade. (Not to mention some aesthetic inspiration from classics like Shadow of the Colossus.) That said, it takes those concepts and goes the extra mile with them, taking players on an adventure on par with what you can find on your game console of choice.


Thanks to some inventive uses of the touch screen and a little hand-holding, you will explore vast, beautiful environments and take on enormous creatures of stone in destructive, explosive battles. The gist of this action-adventure romp is that you're Horn, a young blacksmith of a town called Cuthbert that has woken up to his world in ruin. Oh, and one other thing, everyone he's ever known is either gone or has been transformed into a grotesque stone beast known as a Pygon.

Phosphor claims that the story was inspired by an ancient English folk story, the Romance of Horn, but it's standard fare as far as video game adventure tales go. (Though, you won't find much deeper or compelling stories on your Xbox.) What players should pay attention to are the lengths that Horn goes to provide them with a sprawling, action-packed journey in their pockets. But don't expect the level of control over Horn you're used to with a joystick and buttons.

Horn screens
Horn screens

Horn is a mastery of the touchscreen, but takes some necessary shortcuts to get there. For instance, every combat encounter in the adventure is a set piece to the mission at hand. It's clear that each environment holds specific areas that were designed for such events--to the point that you'll eventually be able to predict where the next enemy will appear (but not always when). To be fair, however, environments crawling with baddies simply wouldn't work behind a touchscreen.

Set up like dominoes for you to topple, perhaps, but taking a fiery axe to a stone golem of a domino never gets old. Players can dodge left or right using the touchscreen buttons and swipe at the enemy to slice and dice it up. At times, your stony combatants leap into the air and attempt to cause a shock wave, giving you the perfect opportunity to leap yourself and look as cool as possible with a shining slash. (As any half-decent video game enemy should.)

Horn screen shots
Horn screen shots

But Horn saves the best for only bouts with the biggest baddies. Ever wanted to send a giant stone colossus flying into a wall, shattering it into bits, only to follow up with a sword through its chest as it crashes to the ground in a fiery explosion ... on your iPhone? Horn will do you one (or several) better: You can do that with a slew of swords, axes, war hammers or even scythes. With the items you collect across this torn world, you can forge and upgrade a myriad of weapons to whack living rock with.

Though it could use some serious polish on previous generation devices, Horn is more than a vivid adventure game with slick workarounds for where it lives. It's a testament to what is possible on mobile and a challenge for others to step up their game. For the nonbelievers with controller in hand: Let Horn show you something cool.

Click here to download Horn on iOS for $6.99 Now >

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