Author Topic: Horizon Chase 2 (Switch eShop) Review  (Read 458 times)

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Offline Halbred

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Horizon Chase 2 (Switch eShop) Review
« on: June 04, 2024, 06:29:49 PM »

Easy to love, but there are some bumps on this lightning-fast road.

Longtime readers may recall my love of Horizon Chase Turbo and its expansive Senna Forever DLC. Indeed, that game remains my favorite arcade racer in recent memory, at least the best since San Francisco Rush tore through the arcades when I was a much younger man. At the time, I mistakenly compared it to Sega’s Out Run, but in truth, the Horizon Chase games are spiritual successors of the SNES Top Gear games–less so the N64 sequels. That first Switch game is still a thrilling ride, featuring impressively varied track designs, eye-popping backgrounds, and a sense of speed that I can only compare to something like F-Zero X.

I was thrilled when Horizon Chase 2 hit the Switch late last year (the latest in a long list of Apple Games refugees), but after reading somewhat middling reviews at the time, I decided to hold off on playing it until the bugs were worked out. I’m glad I waited, although there are still a couple hiccups here and there–one of which was corrected while I was playing the game (mislabeled button prompts in the car selection screen).

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. If you liked Horizon Chase Turbo, you’re also going to like Horizon Chase 2, although maybe not quite as much. Overall, the two are very similar: World Tour mode has you racing through dozens of race tracks around the world, and those tracks are surprisingly imaginative. I found the toughest courses to be those with narrow roads and lots of turns, forcing me to deal with aggressive opponents, jockeying for placement as often as I was trying to get into pole position. One of the pleasures of this series is being able to take turns at nearly full speed–I never had to brake, although that is an option–but taking my thumb off the accelerator for a second at the start of a tight turn usually got the job done. And it seems like Horizon Chase 2 ups the ante on loops and tight turns, with a number of switchback tracks that took me several tries to get the hang of.

Collecting blue coins is still a thing, as is Nitro boosting. You can pick up the rare extra boost icon, and Horizon Chase 2 introduces boost “fragments” which must be collected in multiples of four to equal one full boost. Unfortunately, they’re not nearly as visible as the blue coins, and I often found myself racing past them before I actually noticed them. Happily, they’ve gotten rid of my least favorite aspect of Horizon Chase Turbo–collecting fuel. Now your car is gassed up at all times, which I appreciated immensely.

Car collecting, however, has become less enjoyable. Instead of unlocking one vehicle modification per country that applied to your entire garage, Horizon Chase 2 demands that you upgrade every car separately. Cars gain experience the more they’re used, and earn upgrades by blue coins and amassing Super Trophies (collect all the blue coins + 1st place on a course). What this means is that you’ll essentially have to pick a car and stick with it through World Tour mode–or until it hits Level 10 (the max). Thankfully, unlocked cars tend to (but aren’t always) leveled up to start, so you won’t have to do as much catch-up on them. Still, I would have preferred having body modifications apply to my entire garage.

Interestingly, this game introduces alternate body builds, paint jobs, and rims that can be purchased and swapped, but this is, again, on a per-car basis. Alternate rims are shared between all the cars, but you’ll never actually see the rims while racing. You also probably won’t pay any attention to the changes to the body of the car, since they’re most visible from the front. The front of your vehicle could look like Lightning McQueen and you’d never actually know since you’re looking at the back of your car during races. Paint jobs are more obvious, but the alternate body builds and rims seem like a solution in search of a problem, and I almost never played around with this.

Horizon Chase 2 introduces a more demanding Playground mode, in which you can complete challenges to earn points towards extra aesthetic unlocks, like custom paint jobs. The challenges are interesting but quite difficult. The simpler ones amount to getting first place and using so many boosts, but the tougher ones ask you to get first place and avoid collecting any “Nitro coins,” which are unique “N” icons that are positively littered around the track. This might be doable if you were the only car on the road, but with a full complement of opponents, you’ll often find yourself being pushed into Nitro coins unwillingly. These challenges demand that you more or less memorize a path through the course and stick with it flawlessly, and my brain just isn’t up to that sort of rigmarole.

One nice upgrade in Horizon Chase 2 is that it features both online multiplayer and four-player split-screen, an improvement over Horizon Chase Turbo’s split-screen exclusivity. I didn’t run into any problems in online matches, but I couldn’t get more than two people (including myself) to do a couch co-op run, during which the game operated flawlessly.

One of the highlights of Horizon Chase Turbo was the killer soundtrack by Barry Leitch and I’m happy to say he’s continued churning out banger after banger in this game. I already had the first game’s soundtrack on my YouTube Music playlist, and the sequel has been added as well.

There were a few issues I ran into during my time with Horizon Chase 2. First and foremost, I was miffed to see an Epic Games login prompt when I initially started the game; you have to “activate” the game on your Epic account before you can actually play it. There doesn’t appear to be a way around this. Doubtlessly because of this always-online setup, Horizon Chase 2 would, mercifully infrequently, close unexpectedly upon finishing a race. I have to assume this is a consequence of the Epic Games connection, because it never crashed during the race or while navigating menus between races.

While neither of these issues significantly affect my love of Horizon Chase 2, I can’t defend the forced Epic Games login. I truly, madly, deeply despise this kind of thing in video games (*glares at Bethesda’s DOOM re-releases*) and I wish it was something I could skip past. I don’t care about how my times stack up against every other concurrent player! Luckily, the Epic Games connection happens automatically whenever I turn the game on, so I only had to register or log in once. While I’m sure there are players who will enjoy the Playground mode, I found it a bit too taxing, and additional aesthetic unlocks aren’t worth it (for me). World Tour is once again the game’s bread and butter, but I was disappointed by the changes to car upgrades and underwhelmed by the addition of body, paint, and rim changes.

Horizon Chase 2 is a great game, but it’s quite the masterpiece that its predecessor was. That said, this is a no brainer if you loved the arcade racing goodness of Horizon Chase Turbo, because that part, at least, has not been modified in this sequel.

This would be my PSN Trophy Card, but I guess I can't post HTML in my Signature. I'm the pixel spaceship, and I have nine Gold trophies.