Thanks to EastAsiaSoft for the review code
Title: Habroxia 2
System: Xbox One
Release Date: 02/04/2021
Habroxia 2 sticks with pixel art for its style, and it looks fine enough overall, with certain aspects like the character portraits and the ships looking really crisp, while some like the enemies and world map not wowing as much. Still, the game animates decently enough and plays very smoothly, and it definitely fits the feel of a retro shooter well, even if I feel that Super Hydroah got more aspects on point, especially on the music front (Habroxia 2’s OST isn’t really much to write home about, but not anything to get upset at either, though you can at least customize where each song plays if you wish)
Habroxia 2 is a scrolling shooter, taking place across multiple planets as you progress from stage to stage, even flipping between horizontal and vertical stages, just like Salamander!. Your controls are pretty basic, going for a twin-stick approach as you use a basic weapon along with two more powered-up special weapon that can be fired forwards or backwards after a cooldown, just leading you to navigate the galaxy with your trusty arsenal.
Thus, it may be easy to assume that Habroxia 2 is just another retro shooter, and while that may be mostly true, it does offer some traits and interesting aspects, such as the aforementioned dual-stick setup. While you can use X to fire your normal shot in a straight line, the game was clearly made for it to be fired with the right analog stick, as it allows for a 360 degree aim and works a lot better for reliability. Your secondary weapons are fired via the Right Button and Left Button, in those respective directions, and after firing one of them it’ll enter a brief cooldown before you can use them again.
Alongside those shooting methods, you also have two other means of combatting enemies that can be obtained during stages. Enemies can drop powerup items that can be used with the left trigger, such as a shield or powerful bomb, and the right trigger can be used for a boost, which shreds through enemies as you speed through them. Throughout each stage, you’ll be shooting down waves of enemies and going for the boss bounties at the end. Sometimes you’ll even find a rare enemy as a bounty, or an alternate path to an entirely separate boss!
Alas, one of Habroxia 2‘s other features ends up hampering a lot of the fun factor, which is the upgrade system. Defeated enemies and the like can drop credits, which are accumulated over time to purchase all kinds of permanent upgrades for your ship, from an item magnet, increased health and firepower, new abilities, among many other things, and these can be upgraded multiple times, too! Yet I found that as early as the third stage, even after upgrading the health of my ship multiple times, the difficulty spiked massively, to the point that it felt that even with my best efforts to avoid hazards and enemies, I’d always be destroyed no matter what I do, until I eventually built up credits to buy an upgrade that got me a bit further.
This ended up being a very frustrating gameplay loop, one that I felt wasn’t really engaging or fun, especially with the sparse and seeming lack of checkpoints. While the shooting action was decent enough, and the secondary weapon variety was good fun, this weird difficulty ramping was just a complete frustration to deal with, and even with multiple breaks and off-and-on play sessions, I just couldn’t get over the barrier that was thrown in my path: and thus, I ended up having to concede the game a lot earlier that I would have liked.
In conclusion, Habroxia 2 was a decent little shooter with an interesting control scheme. The powerups were fun to mess around with, the boss fights were enjoyable, and the levels are just generally OK, but overall I never felt any sort of hook to this shooter: not even in the scorechasing aspect, despite the game encouraging you to improve your accuracy and build up combos, I just never felt any sort of incentive or addictive rush to do so, and in general the game felt more like a fun ride rather than a super engrossing, must-play shooter, especially with the irritating difficulty spikes and credit grinding.
Maybe it’s because I’m jumping into this series from this second entry, but I just didn’t feel that sense of excitement or addictive factor that these sorts of shooters tend to give me. The gameplay loop is fine and enjoyable, but it doesn’t try to go above and beyond that, leaving the bosses to be the most enjoyable aspect. Thankfully there’s a boss rush mode for enjoying that aspect, but overall Habroxia 2 was just OK: a fun shooter that works great as an enjoyable ride, but not so much if you’re yearning for the days of scoring or engagement, unless you don’t mind grinding for medals to make the process a lot more smooth.
I give Habroxia 2 a 5 out of 10.