The original Horizon Chase is as close as any arcade-styled racer has come to perfection in recent years.
The purity of experience as you drive an idealised sports car at insane speeds through retro-inspired courses is a thing of beauty. So how can this sequel hope to go one better without diluting the experience?
Well, it actually takes a few things out, leaving room for the new additions to breathe. A very clever solution, and one that makes this game even more playable than before, if slightly dumbed down.
The first thing you notice is that the density of the trackside detail has increased tenfold. Gone is the strip of road with objects spawning in for you to hurtle past. Instead, the beautiful, stylised environments are truly persistent.
You still zoom along at 200mph (and it feels like it too) with the Bay Bridge on the horizon, only now it stays in view as you pull around a corner and drive across it. Horizon Catch? OK, sorry.
The game still moves at a million miles an hour despite all this geometry. Add in day/night transitions and more wonderful music and you’ve got yourself a party.
Career-wise, it’s structured simply with five areas to race across, of which only the USA is unlocked at the start. Complete races and pick up tokens that litter the track and you’ll unlock new areas, totalling about four-five hours’ play.
The tokens still normally take more than one lap to collect, providing a simple memory game as you try to recall which side you should be on after various landmarks on the circuit. However, the tokens now appear with sufficient time to steer towards them, and the collision detection when collecting them seems to be ever so slightly more forgiving in this sequel, making it less frustrating.
The same goes for collisions with AI cars – you’re not punished as much for small prangs, losing less speed, though you can still get stuck behind someone.
Also alleviating frustration is the removal of the fuel system. No more will you be hunting for petrol canisters or running out of juice 300m before the line. Even with the improvements in player experience, it’s still a ridiculously fast game, and if you fail to react or simply lose track of where the road is turning thanks to the increased detail in the visuals, you’ll flip end-over-end. That OutRun influence is still easy to spot.
One element that’s also sadly been removed is the speech bubbles that used to appear above your car, making ’80s-themed puns or just trash-talking your opponents on your behalf. The proceedings feel a little more detached and straight-laced as a result.
As if to make up for it, the music fanfare for crossing the line in first place is somehow even more over-the-top than before. It’s a sonic delight, and it’s always awesome to hear proper electric guitar solos in a racing game.
Horizon Chase 2 is currently only available on iOS via Apple Arcade, though it does support gamepads for a more console-esque experience. It runs decently well on a 2018 iPad Pro, but near flawlessly on an iPhone 13 Mini.
There are occasional freezes and frame-rate drops as the phone perhaps does something in the background, and one or two crashes too, but restarting makes its silky-smooth 60fps return once more.
There are multiplayer modes too, with one where you can sign up to be part of a crew, either by joining one with a code, or creating your own and sharing out codes. Quick race online matches are also available complete with their own rewards system, though control inputs are noticeably delayed when racing other humans, which isn’t ideal in a game this fast.
There’s no split screen option in this iOS incarnation, though when it comes to console and PC next year, it’s very likely those will be present. A Tournament Mode with small challenge championships unlocks as you tick off areas in the campaign, and online leaderboards top off an impressively full feature set.
This is a prime example of the arcade racer, reviving ’80s gaming sensibilities beautifully and offering a joyous, simple experience anyone can enjoy. It’s not quite as memorable, challenging or magical as the original, but if you’ve fallen in love with Horizon Chase as we have, or just want some ultra-fast, easy-to-play racing fun, it’s still the easiest of recommendations. Get on it.
|Aquiris Game Studio
|6th September 2022
|iOS (PC and console in 2023)
|Best played with
|iPhone 13 or newer
Full disclosure: We downloaded this game from the App Store for review purposes. Here is our review policy.