Consistently, new shoot ‘em ups arrive with marketing conspicuously mentioning inspiration drawn from yesteryear’s classic shooters. While titles like R-Type, Gradius, Axelay are frequently cited, the results are often far removed from these retro gems. Typically, the game is either a derivative copycat or a misguided effort that neglects to understand the charms of the source material.
Smartly, the recent PlayStation 4, Vita, and Switch release of Habroxia makes no mention of any kind of homage. But the game is certainly built from a cornucopia of established concepts. Space stages bordered by brutalist architecture evoke the contexts of the R-Type series. Habroxia’s tendency to shift scrolling directions is reminiscent of Vanguard’s expedition. A loadout that offers three different firing modes might remind players of Raiden’s distinctive trio of weapons. When viewed collectively, these inclusions don’t feel imitative. Rather, they reflect the kind of evolutionary riffing that has long been a tradition for the genre.
An Ample Arsenal
As you journey across the game’s collection of fifteen stages, you’ll quickly realize that each weapon mode is advantageous in different situations. The power of a concentrated beam of lasers can be felt when you line up with a target or when enemies whizz by in predictable patterns. When things become more hectic and the screen is filled with foes and mines, you might opt to switch for the spread gun. It might lack the strength of a concentrated shot, but it’s invaluable when you’re dodging a barrage of enemy bullets and want to fill the area with flak. Finally, there’s the side-shooter. You’ll use it less frequently, but it’s extremely beneficial at tackling the game’s ground-based turrets.
Although Habroxia visuals and audio suggest retro sensibilities, it’s meta-game power-up system is straight out a contemporary rogue-like. Bosses and intermittently, enemies drop credits that can be used to permanently augment your ship. And while Habroxia is a bit miserly with its monetary payouts, stick with the game and you can perpetually extend your health bar, adding homing rockets, and increase the spread or speed of your guns.
Make Use of Those Auxiliary Tools
But that’s not to say your stuck with a basic loadout. Like any respectable shmup, power-ups lure you into dangerous spaces. But the reward is probably worth the risk, as you can gather offensive tools like a piercing laser on the front of your ship, a defensive shield, or smart bombs that will afflict every on-screen opponent. Other power-ups temporarily increase your ship’s abilities, so you’ll want to try to blast every last adversary. In fact, there’s a bonus for performing this feat.
Levels often have secondary objectives, like rescuing wayward astronauts. This can be a bit irksome, because the space travelers are susceptible to your weaponry. But it does generate incentive to revisit levels- at least for diehard completionists. But here is where Habroxia shows some balancing woes. Once you’ve augmented your ship, many of the game’s early levels become way too easy. Habitually, the title errs on the side of leniency. Habitually, the first time you face Habroxia’s bosses, the challenge level can be rather low.
Enemy Variety Makes the Journey Enjoyable
Difficulty aside, the game is quite gratifying. A significant portion of this emanates from enemy behavior and level design. Habroxia has several dozen different types of foes, who attack is different ways. Learning the best way to deal with these threats is enjoyable, especially when the game sends a diverse group of adversaries after the player.
Ultimately, Habroxia succeeds by subtlety incorporating a multitude of mechanics, all amassed from the pantheon of shooting classics. While the game’s fifteen-level campaign can be completed in a few hours, additional unlockable variations help maintain interest, making the game an easy recommendation for shmup fans, especially those deterred by the difficulty of danmaku.
Habroxia was played on the Switch with review code provided by the publisher.