Shoot em’ ups can provide varied experiences given a gamer’s play style and skill. Most are easy enough to dive into, but precision and tenacity are required to experience the more hardcore titles. However, Habroxia 2 by developer Lilymo Games and publisher EastAsiaSoft creates a shmup experience that is even more inviting. While Habroxia 2 manages to provide some challenges, there are enough optional upgrades to make clearing the short but sweet game possible for most players.
Habroxia 2 takes place 25 years after humanity’s victory over a malicious alien colony. Astronauts exploring deep space have all made it back, except for one. You play as this space pilot’s daughter searching for her father in a system swarming with aggressive alien forces.
Shooting with your basic gun is controlled via the right analog stick, similar to a twin-stick shooter. This allows you to aim in various directions while maintaining a mostly stationary position with your actual ship. Personally, this made obstacles a lot easier to avoid since I didn’t have to line up my ship directly with an enemy to take them out.
I can see how focusing on both shooting and maneuvering may be a challenge, though, so players’ mileage may vary. Most importantly, I found the system thoroughly enjoyable. It’s a pretty cathartic experience as I’m one of those players that love the satisfaction of eliminating all enemies before they have a chance to leave the screen, and this control scheme lends well to achieve that.
Along with your main blaster, you also have the choice of a special weapon equipped to the front and the back of your ship. These range from homing missiles, lasers, or one of my favorites, a wave shield that eliminates enemy projectiles. The best part about this is you can assign a completely different special weapon choice to the back or front.
It creates a nice opportunity to try out various loadouts, and, depending on the stage, it might help with any survival strategies. Special weapons work off of a meter to prevent spamming. More power blasts of these weapons can be executed at the moment the bar reaches its max. This is indicated visually and by a little ding that lets, you know when you have this opportunity. If you’re looking to get the most out of your weapons, this is incredibly useful to master.
Items drop from enemies that can also provide you with powerful one use offensive and defensive moves. Bombs can wipe out all minor enemies on a screen, while the powerful beam utilities a more direct attack. The defensive shield can also prove extremely useful, even if it is short-lived. You can only hold onto one of these items at a time, which helps motivate you to use them instead of just holding onto them. Enough items appear that you never go too long without the chance to pick up a new one.
Boost is another feature that, like the name implies, can send you blasting forward. It also helps you dive through some less structurally sound obstacles without taking damage and quickly getting out of the way of enemies and projectiles. It’s a neat feature but not one I found the need to utilize much.
All weapons, health, and abilities can be upgraded with points you obtain during battle. This makes sections incredibly easier and more manageable for players if they wish to utilize them. At times this may make Habroxia 2 a bit of a cakewalk for more experienced players, so there is a trade-off for those that want a challenge overusing some of the more powerful upgrades.
Levels in Habroxia 2 are all 2D but, at times, will switch from vertical to horizontal shooting within the same level. It’s an element that was presented in the previous title but seemed more frequent here. Almost all levels contain branching pathways. Each pathway has its own boss and sections, which must be completed to unlock certain levels. Sure, some players may not like replaying levels even if they have different sections, but I had no problem with this.
Even with these branching pathways, Habroxia 2 did feel like a pretty short experience. There are 18 levels in total, and even though you can play most twice for different routes, I was a little surprised by how quickly the credits rolled. For more seasoned shmup players, gameplay may take around two hours or less.
It’s very in-line lengthwise with the era of older shmup games it’s emulating, but I know how important it is for many modern-day gamers to have a longer gaming experience. It’s not necessarily a negative for me, but I think it speaks to how much I enjoyed my playthrough, wishing it would go a bit longer.
Part of my surprise with how short the main game seemed is many enemies and bosses were reused from the previous Habroxia title. Because of this, I was expecting new foes after fighting so many of these reused bosses. They’re still fun and have a few added features thrown in, but at times, it felt like it was more of a remaster than a sequel. For those that are fairly familiar with the previous title, this might be a bit of a disappointment even with all the added gameplay elements of Habroxia 2
There is some replayability with Habroxia 2. After finishing the main game, a new game plus is added, along with a boss rush mode and boost rush mode. Boost rush sends you blasting through narrow pathways forcing you to dodge obstacles. It’s an entertaining mode that would have been great periodically throughout the main mission, but it’s nice that it’s featured here at all.
Habroxia 2 is a really entertaining shmup that presents itself in an accessible way for more casual gamers or those newer to the genre. Unfortunately, at times Habroxia 2 feels like it reuses too many enemies from its predecessor and is also a bit on the short side. Still, I really enjoyed my time blasting away enemies in space, especially with the game’s fun and response controls and upgrades. If you’re interested in some shmup action that isn’t overly demanding, Habroxia 2 may be the experience for you.
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