Horizon Riders (WiiWare)

Game Review

Horizon Riders Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Patrick Elliot

Well balanced?

Horizon Riders is definitely a Wii-exclusive experience. A game that makes use of both the Balance Board and Wii Zapper, Sabarasa's on-rails shooter is tailor-made for the console. If you are one of the millions that bought Wii Fit, consider yourself in for a treat, as the game makes good use of the peripheral and really shouldn't be played any other way. Those who don't own the peripheral however may want to approach this game with caution.

The main job of the Balance Board is to control your movement left and right. Much like Sin and Punishment: Star Successor, the game employs a third-person perspective that allows you to move about the screen to dodge objects and projectiles. You cannot move up and down though, but you can jump, activated by swinging up the Wii Remote. Whipping up the controller messes with your shooting a bit, as you have to point the Wii Remote at the screen to aim. It isn't too hard to steady yourself afterwards, but the option to jump with a button wouldn't have hurt.

Levels follow a predetermined line, allowing you to look ahead and anticipate upcoming enemies and obstacles. Aside from the various enemy types, you'll also take a lot of damage from crashing into things, so steering and level memorisation are a vital part of the game.

On the Balance Board, the game responds well, but may lack the precision some shooter fans are looking for. There is no option to adjust the sensitivity to your liking, but you can work around this by recalibrating the board and leaning with more or less weight, thus changing the amount you have to move. You can even sit on the couch and play it. Trust us.

For those who lack a Balance Board, be warned, the control option you are left with his pretty cumbersome. Rather than map the steering to the Nunchuk analogue stick (which is used to switch weapons), Sabarasa instead implements gyroscope controls, requiring you to rotate the Wii Remote clockwise or counter-clockwise to move right or left. This makes aiming very difficult, as you have to turn the controller quite a bit to get your character to move. For a game based on fast-paced shooting, it is mind-boggling why Sabarasa barred the option to use the analogue stick to steer, especially when it would have worked so well with the Zapper.

There are four playable characters, each with a different appearance and load-out. A total of four guns are available, but each character carries only a specific two. The gun types include a wide shotgun-like attack, a standard rifle-like laser, a double laser and a slower, more powerful beam attack. No character has the same exact load-out, allowing you to experiment and find which guns suit you best. Choose wisely though, as there's no option to change characters once you start a game.

You can even level-up your guns to a certain point by continually defeating enemies. Maxing out your guns makes mowing down enemies (and bosses) much easier, but if you die your gun power reverts back, making staying alive doubly important. If you do die, you respawn right where you were, and can endlessly continue from the beginning of the stage if you run out of lives.

The three bosses in the game do a great job of breaking up the gameplay and keeping things fresh. Unlike normal enemies, bosses unleash a wide array of bullet patterns, frequently changing their attacks. The game even mixes in top-down perspectives here and there to periodically give the feel of a vertical shooter.

Graphically the game does a great job of conveying the setting: a distant planet in the future being terraformed by a malevolent artificial intelligence. While the enemy types are not all that robust, there are some great landscapes and a mix of 2D art and 3D animation to make up the futuristic worlds. You blast your way across highways, desserts and swamps as mechanical structures break up the natural settings and skyscrapers loom in the distance. The final section really shines, with a futuristic nighttime cityscape leading to a Tron-like inner core.

While total game time is not incredibly long, there is still some replay value thanks to the various characters you can play through the levels as. Sadly though, there is no online leaderboards. Just you and your high scores.


If you love classic third-person rail shooters like Space Harrier, Horizon Riders won't disappoint — so long as you own a Balance Board. Without the peripheral, the game depends on gyro controls that interfere with your aim and make the game more frustrating than difficult. If you do own the peripheral however, you owe it to yourself to check this game out. There certainly isn't an experience quite like it anywhere else. Sabarasa took a risk in creating such a unique experience for the Wii, and if you own a Balance Board and love shooters, you should seriously consider rewarding them for doing so.

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User Comments (32)



Burning_Spear said:

Seems like it's worth a shot for 800 points. I haven't used my Balance Board or Wii Zapper in a long, long time.



Link79 said:

I have never owned a balance board nor do I ever care to.
By making this game rely so heavily on this method of control it really ruins the experience. These controls mixed with this type of game was a dumb idea.
Is anybody really gonna play this standing on a balance board? Seems rediculous to me.
This could have been one of Wiiware's best.
Instead it's another cool looking game ruined by gimicky controls.



Shiryu said:

What a huge oversight about the controllers. I hope they add a update with classic controller pro support. Then, I will buy it.



Skotski said:

...and considering that it's on the Wii, a console considered gimmicky in almost every fashion by outside players - it's fitting and shouldn't be something to be complained about.

Your entire argument was thrown out the window by saying you've never owned or cared to ever get a balance board. ...that's pretty similar to saying you never owned or ever plan to purchase an xbox360, and that putting it on that console ruins the entire game.
-the only similar argument I'd accept was keeping the DBZBT series on the PS3/360 - when the Wii controls REALLY added more fun to multiplayer --- though I wouldn't go as far as to say it ruins the game, it just makes me sad that it wasn't as good.

Anyways, back on topic:
Yes, people are going to play this standing on a balance board. Are you planning on playing Skyward Sword by swinging your arms to simulate combat? Seems rediclulous to me.



Link79 said:

@ Skotski
What ruins the game is not what console it was put on.
The Wii has many games that don't use motion controls at all.
I suspect most users of the balance board are casual players and
this type of game is not suited for the casual.
If they wanted to make the game playable without the balance board
they could have done a far better job.

On the topic of Skyward sword,
yes I do plan on swinging the remote since that is the only possible way of playing.
At least I don't have to use the balance board. That thing is about as dumb as the Gamecube Bongos.



rjejr said:

Tried the demo - didn't see it mentioned in the article but there is one in USA - and I kinda sorta liked it.
I liked using the Wii balance board to play, what is almost completely, Sin and Punishment. I think they took the N64 graphics straight out of Starfox. I coulda used some more tutoring, and the game seems like it should have a shield button when battling the boss as jumping is a pain, but a shield may have made it too easy. They really should have just not used the nunchuck at all and made B jump and D-pad change weapons b/c my left thumb kept trying to steer me and kept changing weapons instead. The balance board worked ok for what is essentially a 3 wide Wipeout course. It was hard to see boundaries though at times - light blue dots? - and sometimes you rode sideways over walls but sometimes crashed into them almost at random.
It's too bad the controls are just so utterly stupidly assigned w/o any options, this could have been a good game. They should remake all the controls and visual ques and re-release it.



XCWarrior said:

Sounds like a solid review. I like shooters, have a balance board, have a zapper, and I have 800 points. So I'm picking this game up once I beat a few other titles I'm in the middle of.



SKTTR said:

@Skotski: Agree.

This game features riders on hoverboards, so Balance Board is the best option for this kind of game. The developers wanted to make a Balance Board game and it looks like this is a good attempt with a fitting theme where the Balance Board is not a gimmicky add-on but the definite control choice.
It shouldn't be played any other way anyway regardless of it having good Wiimote-only controls or not.



Ren said:

don't fool yourself about most of the 'users of the balance board are casual players'. I'll bet almost every dedicated nintendo kid on here has one. I am not a casual player and I have one. In case you forgot they sold like hotcakes, and this was a great idea to make a good action game that relies on those controls in a fun way.
Now if we could just get that game that kills zombies with the guitars controllers; what ever happened to that one?



accc said:

When I first read about the controls I was skeptical, but after playing the game they're not nearly as bad as they sound. In practice, tilting the remote doesn't mess up your pointer aim at all since you learn to adjust your hand accordingly to compensate, and flicking to jump only messes up your aim for a split second. As always, people are being overly whiny and melodramatic about having to learn new control schemes.



Link79 said:

I figured only people excited about Wii fit used the balance board.
Maybe I was wrong.



SteveW said:

I use the balance board for games like "We Ski & Snowboard" more than I ever did for Wii Fit.



OptometristLime said:

I don't have a balance board contrary to popular opinion, so I will be skipping this one... kind of disappointing.



Omega said:

I like Space Harrier and Sin & Punishment. And I like how Horizon Riders looks. But unfortunately I don't own a Balance Board. And I don't buy one just for this single game.



Ren said:

can anyone confirm the usefulness of the zapper attachment? I never got one because I'm skeptical about it really changing the game experience enough to make it helpful or fun.



FonistofCruxis said:

I don't like the generic character design but apart from that I like the look of the game but I don't have a balance board so I won't be getting this.



Kagamine said:

i have a balance board but i never buy wiiware so im not getting this. @link79 i resent the fact that the balance board is only for casual players. i consider myself hardcore and i own wiifit and play it daily. Its not that i need to or that i'm fat, im probably the skinniest guy you would ever meet, but because i think its fun in some dimensions.

Anyway, looks pretty fun, but im not getting it.



Burning_Spear said:

@15: The zapper is nothing more than a plastic shell, but it works well for shooters that also require the Nunchuk. You can find it for $20 new, and it comes with a short-but-excellent game: Link's Crossbow Training.



VinylFly said:

Great review. I really enjoyed finally using that darn balance board; It makes you feel like you're playing an actual arcade machine, something that most other similar peripherals--like Tony Hawk's skateboard--could never do.



cyrus_zuo said:

I guess I'm in the dissenting voice class, but I tried the Demo and thought it was absolutely awful. The visuals were just 'ok' the music was up there with the generic sound-track of ExciteTruck (thankfully you could load your own music from the SD card for that), and the pointing responsiveness was frustrating at best. I was not impressed.
I found it more similar to Sin & Punishment than others, but S&P is fantastic on the Wii, Horizon Riders, if the demo is any indication, is only interesting b/c of the use of the balance board. I'd love to see those controls used in a better game.



TheGreenSpiny said:

@link79: Okay now you are pissing me off. The whole point of video games is interactivity. If the balance board can you used for a better more interactive way, why not use it? My only complaint is that this game seems too late to the party. I got rid of my balance board a long time ago, and because the standard controls are so bad I won't be buying it.

As far a the DK Bongos go... You've clearly never played DK's Jungle Beat, which was a suburb platformer that controlled with the bongos. I wasn't convinced that the bongo's would function as an adaquate controller till I got the game a christmas gift and played it for myself. The bongos actually made the experience in that game. Seriously gamers need to spend less time whining and more time playing.



kurtasbestos said:

Skotski / TheDarkness -> Well said. I don't own a balance board, but fortunately I know of one that I can probably borrow, because I love the concept and I'd really like to try this game out. It's only because of games like these that try new things that I haven't grown completely bored with video games after 25+ years of playing them.



LittleIrves said:

Hmm... I'm curious. Actually just got Wii Fit Plus (Target had a great deal) and I'm quite surprised how much fun it is. Even got a sheen of sweat on me during one of the Strength Training exercises. Anyway, point is I'm looking for other more gamey-games to use it with, and this could be worth a try. The jump controls sound horrendous, though. Perhaps I'll give Rock 'n Roll Climber a try.........



DeathCode said:

This game was worth the 800 points. Reminds me of Sin & Punishment and Zombie Panic in Wonderland.



NEXUS said:

Hi guys, I'm Andres "NEXUS" Chamarra, one of the programmers during this project, I wanted to comment on the controls issue:
First of I'm no longer with Sabarasa so I can't really do anything about them, however, we tested the game a lot, both developers and dedicated testers, and after a while the plan B control scheme don't bother much, some people even preferred them to the balance board scheme, but it does take a while to get used to them.

The reason we didn't include the plan C scheme was that it practically removed all difficulty from the game, we wanted the controls without board to emulate the board experience as much as possible, when testing with real audience in an expo we noticed that even on the board people instinctively tilted their zappers, so it seemed like the way to go.
The game is hard and meant to be hard, and we felt the plan C scheme broke that, in retrospect perhaps we should have included it anyway with a warning "plan C is for newbies" but its kind of late now.

Anyway it gives me a more than warm feeling seeing the satisfied comments of the people that gave it a chance, hope it takes away the feeling of regret that so many board buyers had expressed



NEXUS said:

PS: we wanted to make a 2p coop as well, but Nintendo doesn't allow two balance boards connected at the same time



Burning_Spear said:

NEXUS: Great to get this kind of feedback from the programmers. I think you guys hit it right: Use of the Balance Board and Zapper opens a different dynamic and separates this game from all of the other shooters. This is a definite purchase for me.



jbrodack said:

I tried the demo and wanted to like it but was not impressed. If the challenge relies on an awkward control scheme then the challenge is not implemented right. Also, couldn't you have used one balance board and one controller to be used for 2 player coop?

Having to twist the controller was annoying and having to fight with the controls seemed to mask that the shooting action was mediocre and not nearly as good and well refined as sin and punishment. It's never a good idea to leave out an easy to control option.

Still, might not be bad for those with a balance board wanting something different.



owen1 said:

I played the demo of this without the balance board and the controls were frustrating as hell. As jbrodack said if you have to put a crappy control scheme to make your game challenging then something is wrong with the game. Playing the demo was like playing super mario with motion controls for jumping. Its a pretty game but I would not recommend it to anybody unless they have a balance board and some extra coin. totally missed opportunity.

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