At the start, you can only do Story Mode. This presents the stages in a linear fashion. Each is fairly short, and most end with a boss fight. There are 15 in all, which is more than I would expect, but compliments the shorter stages rather well. The bosses themselves feel different from each other, but aren't the most visually distinct. They do fit with the game's aesthetic, however I'd be hard pressed to name them, or tell you what stage they are from, if just shown a picture.
Most of the stages are side-scrolling, but sometimes one of the game's unique features kicks in. The "perspective" will shift, and the game briefly becomes a top-down scrolling shooter. It's done really well, as you are usually safe when it happens. The choice to include it is interesting, for sure, and breathes some fresh air into the genre. Some bosses are even top-down, as opposed to side-scrolling. I don't always advocate games outright copying each other, but this idea could easily be done in some other shmups, and it would be neat to experience again.
The game is not overly hard, even though there was a stage or two that I failed a few times. This is thanks the game's rogue-lite system of upgrades. Some enemies drop credits when defeated, which can be used between stages to buy permanent upgrades to the ship. These are persistent through story mode. Costs increase for each as their level rises, and they are very useful. It's not necessary to fully max out the ship to complete the game, either. I went for shot power, speed, and spread, but never ended up getting the health upgrades. That might explain why I failed a couple of stages. Even so, I made it through with only a few rough spots.
However, credits are not the only way to upgrade your ship. Power-ups are also occasionally dropped by enemies. There are even two flavors: ship power-ups, and items. Ship power-ups are similar to the upgrades. You can get stronger shots, missiles, and health. It seems redundant at first, but these can temporarily be used instead of upgrading your ship. By temporary, I mean they only last on the current stage. They are also vital for the other modes discussed later.
Items are things that should be familiar to shmup fans. Bombs that damage everything on the screen, a shield to take a hit for you, and a few others. One is a powerful but short laser beam in front of your ship. It penetrates, and does a lot of damage to bosses. Very useful. There's another one, with a wave-looking icon that I couldn't figure out what it does. I didn't see any kind of tutorial, or explanation, and there was no visible effect. I tried to avoid that one in lieu of one that was actually useful. If someone finds out what it does, let me know! The ship can only hold one item at a time, and once you use it, it's gone.
Habroxia's controls work well, but took me a few minutes to get used to. Instead of using a face button to fire, players use the shoulder buttons. The R Button shoots in a straight line in front of the ship, while the L Button fires shots above and below you. This would be great, but shots are not very quick, even when maxed out, so switching to the top and bottom shot was never useful to me. Plus, it only fires in both directions when you aren't moving. If you move, it only shots in that direction. So, even less useful than it already was. I'm sure there are some players would can use it effectively, but it's not me. Also, I rarely needed it. Luckily, using both triggers to shoot will give you a small spread shot. This is what I used most of the time, while occasionally switching to the front shot for a few parts.
As for the other modes, they are unlocked after beating the story. First is Invasion Mode. Ever play Space Invaders? For this mode, it is vertical, and you must destroy random waves of enemies before they reach the bottom and get past you. This mode also contains bosses, power-ups, and items. It's easily the most interesting of the extra modes to me, but still not as exciting or fun as Story Mode. Second is Rescue Mode, which tasks you with rescuing astronauts. It's an okay mode, but gets a little boring after awhile. The levels are random for this mode, and repeat fairly often. Killing an astronaut ends the mode, so you have to be careful with your attacks. The third and final unlocked mode is Shield Maiden Mode. Your ship only has 1 bar of health, so you have to rely on the plentiful shield items to keep yourself alive. Shields tend to be very useful in games like this, but I don't like the ones in Habroxia. They seem to disappear on me. I'm not sure if they have a timer, or the hitbox is the shield and not the ship, or maybe both of these. If it's not reliable, I'm not really a fan. So, a good concept for an extra mode, but not one I would play very much.
Habroxia is a fairly simple game that harkens back to early shmups, while adding modern features to the mix. It's pulled off really well, and is definitely a neat little game that I recommend shmup fans try out.
Fun retro-inspired space shooter with modern, unique elements.
Extra modes are not that exciting.
The credits mini-game is fun.
(Review code for Habroxia was received from the publisher.)
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