For all the pixelated-platformers, endless-style reinventions, and stunning HD fighting games currently being released, it seems that the humble classic arcade racing game is always forgotten. Horizon Chase changes that, evoking the Outrun and Lotus series to create the perfect mobile high-speed racer.
From the beginning Horizon Chase's ties to Outrun are clear. Starting you a beautiful red Ferrari, the game spares no time in having you racing towards the horizon - with your driver yelling comments at other racers as you cruise past.
While similarities to the Sega classic are striking, Horizon Chase actually has more in common with the Lotus games. Formalized track racing and position are the order of the day, rather than tearing down public highways weaving between trucks and Sunday-drivers.
It may seem like a tiny difference, but it allows the game to work far better on mobile. Rather than endlessly chasing the next checkpoint, you are locked in quick three or five lap races that last around two minutes - perfect for gaming on the go.
Each race has you square off against 19 other cars trying to grab first place. Like the classic titles on which it is based, corners feel more like swinging left and right on an aggressive conveyer belt rather than actually turning.
But, somehow, this adds to the experience, allowing you to focus on your position on the track as you dodge between cars. This is rather than the flashy drifting of modern arcade racers, which seem to focus more on style than speed.
Turn on a dime
After the first area of the game (nine races) things start to get hard, demanding you earn power-up and additional cars – which range from faux Ferraris to copied Corvettes - if you hope to emerge victorious.
Horizon Chase’s responsive four virtual-buttons (no tilt controls here) ensure that you never feel cheated when things start to get tough. Steering, accelerate, and turbo are all you need, with breaking happening automatically as you ease off the gas.
This can feel too binary at times. It would be nice to have a cruising speed between go and stop, because when trying to not hit another car and spinout on a narrow stretch of track you can feel limited strategically. But, given my experience with other mobile racers, exchanging variety for responsiveness may have been a fair exchange.
The lap system also helps with Horizon Chase’s collectibles. Coming first awards you with a gold trophy, but to get a pro award you also need to gather the blue coins that are scattered around the track. This makes it vital that you memorize where the coins are located on early laps and then gather them on subsequent circuits, because they can be hard to spot at top speed.
Part of the difficulty of seeing these coins comes from the detail and color that saturates every track - from sun soaked yellow desserts to lush green jungles at night. It all moves beautifully smoothly, with the classic horizontal lines of alternating colors that were a hallmark of racing games of the 80s perfectly recreated in polygons. But for all of its callbacks, it is made to look modern as the road undulates beneath and dust billows up from behind your car.
Horizon Chase is filled with sensational arcade action that will tug on your retro sensibilities while still feeling slick and modern. Perfect for all racing fans – whether or not you have an appreciation of its inspiration.