Disclaimer: We did receive a review code for Habroxia 2 for free for review purposes.
Habroxia 2, the latest from Lillymo Games, took me back to my childhood. If I had a Capri Sun, I’d swear I was back home, blasting away enemies in Lightning Force. While I regrettably had not played it’s predecessor, I hopped into the cockpit of the star fighter and felt right at home. Habroxia 2 is a twin-stick shooter that looks and plays like a shoot-em-up (referred to as “shmup” going forward). I have to say: this is how a shmup should feel and play. Let me break this all down.
Habroxia 2’s synopsis reads thus:
In the aftermath of a brutal attack on Free Space, humanity sends scout ships to the star system that was at the source of the assault. But when one of the pilots doesn’t return home, it’s up to his daughter — the talented starpilot Sabrina — to find him. Habroxia 2 is a non-linear, old-school space shooter with upgrades, boss fights, and even New Game+, all wrapped in a retro package combining pixel graphics, chiptunes, and stellar gameplay.
Now, shmups are not really known for their stories and Habroxia 2 is no different. The story serves well enough to get you started and blasting through enemy fighters. It is up to you and your reflexes to find Sabrina’s father. I honestly appreciated how quickly the game gets you into the game and let’s the story almost take a backseat. The game is bookended by cutscenes giving you the narrative so it never bogs you down. For now, let’s leave the story there so you can discover it for your own (and Sabrina’s father’s fate) and let’s talk about gameplay.
If you’ve played other shmups, you’re familiar with the formula:
- Arrive in a level
- Follow the level through
- Destroy everything that’s attacking you
- Grand boss bottle
Habroxia 2 incorporated something very, very rad. If you ever played Star Fox, then you remember those moments where you could take an alternate path in a level only to discover a new branch path, complete with it’s own set of levels and bosses. Habroxia 2 takes that concept and cranks it up to 11 with multiple paths. These paths will serve as a proving ground to ensure you’re ready for the final boss.
Habroxia 2 boasts an impressive roster of 20 bosses. Now, admittedly, some of these bosses are variants of one another with new attack patterns. While some bosses may look the same, they may not exactly behave the same. Each boss fight will require you to either tap in to a kind of focus with your reflexes or spot an opening in the pattern to bring the boss down. Sometimes, it will require a mixture of both. While there were some bosses that were complete pushovers, there were a few in particular that gave me a lot of trouble (I’m looking at you, Deep Space Drill).
As you progress through the game, you’ll earn currency to purchase upgrades for your ship. These upgrades enhance various aspects of your ship from how much damage your regular attack does, to the durability of shields, to fuel for boosts and so on. You’ll need these upgrades if you want to finish the game. I dumped the vast majority of my upgrades into the regular attack boosts (damage, spread, fire rate) and that served me well. It got to a point where I did not need to upgrade my secondary weapons (bombs, shield, laser) because my regular attack was powerful enough to handle the enemy ships. Perhaps my approach was not even but it really seemed like there was no reason to put points into bombs or upgrading the laser. However, my personal loadout consisted of the homing rounds for the front special and the spread for the back special.
Once you reach the end of the game, you unlock 3 extra game modes. There’s a New Game + that opens up, complete with more powerful enemies and bosses that have some tricks up their sleeves. If you find the regular campaign a little on the easy side, try the New Game +. The more powerful bosses make for a good bit of challenge while maintaining a solid level of fun. Boost Mode sees you flying through a tunnel with the boost on the entire time. Some may find this frustrating, as it relies completely on reflex and quick thinking but I had a blast trying to finish it. It took several attempts but if I can beat Boost Mode, anyone can. Boss Rush mode has you, well, rushing through the bosses to see how fast you can take them down. This was great because it allowed me to face off with some of my favorite bosses again, without having to travel to them in their corresponding level.
As always in our reviews, I want to touch on the music and sound of the game. Lillymo Games did a fantastic job of capturing that retro shmup sound in both the music and sound. It was like an arcade was in my living room and, of course, I had a Capri Sun in hand. It’s energetic, it’s bombastic, it has all the right chimes to suck you in to the addictive nature that shmups are known for.
At this point, it’s obvious that I really enjoyed Habroxia 2. Yes, so much so that I even obtained the Platinum trophy.
I’m assuming Colin Moriarty gave guidance and input on this because the trophy list is really good for completionists like myself. I think players who pick this game up will obtain the Platinum just by simply playing through the game and the subsequent modes that unlock.
If you are a fan of retro gaming, shmups, well tuned games that just pure fun, or all of the above, Habroxia 2 just may be your new favorite game. With that being said, Habroxia 2 gets our Platinum Seal of Approval.
Habroxia 2 releases on February 3rd and is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS Vita, and Xbox One.