In 1978, Space Invaders was released. I used to think that this was a good thing, but now I’m not so sure. Don’t get me wrong, Space Invaders is a fun and hugely influential game that paved the way for many titles that followed. Heck, it’s thanks to the game’s creator, Tomohiro Nishikado, that we have difficulty curves. Yet I think that too many studios take the wrong lesson from Space Invaders. Rather than attempting to revolutionize the industry with a completely new style of play, there are developers that believe a spaceship shooting in space is all a game needs. Habroxia 2 is one such title that’s not only unoriginal, but it kind of rips you off.
Developed by the team of eastasiasoft and Lillymo Games, this 2D space shooter sees you flying around any obstacles that you aren’t able to blast into oblivion. Destroying enemies and debris will increase your score, give you a small amount of in-game credits, and possibly drop special power-ups. If you’re expecting an interesting narrative, I suggest you look elsewhere. The game actually starts with a lovely little tutorial where the pilot of your ship talks with her father as he tells her how to fly in between loving reprimands. Following that, the “plot” begins and you must embark into the cosmos to find and rescue your old dad. That is all you’ll be able to get story-wise until the very end. It’s a shame there isn’t any additional dialogue from any characters, because the writing is charming enough that I actually wanted to know what happened next.
Instead of the story’s continuation, however, Habroxia 2 throws you into its combat and hopes that will be enough. Although I said earlier that this game is unoriginal, it does have a fun idea. Occasionally, your ship will stop going from left to right in order to move from the bottom of the screen toward the top in more of a Galaga fashion. It’s the idea that Habroxia 2 should have been built around in order to make itself more unique, but it doesn’t happen nearly enough.
Aside from the plane switching, Habroxia 2 is the same thing you’ve seen a million times before. Move with the left stick, shoot by holding the right in any direction, and pick up power-ups like a giant laser, shield, or bunch of bombs. As you complete levels, you’ll unlock special attacks that you can launch from either the front or back of your ship. A nice touch is that you can mix and match these attacks to find what works best for you, but the rockets that lock onto enemies are easily more effective than everything else.
If you find that your ship is being destroyed too quickly or not doing enough damage, you can purchase upgrades in between missions. How-freaking-ever, said upgrades are ludicrously expensive. Upgrades can be purchased multiple times in order to make your ship incrementally better, but if an upgrade costs 100 credits the first time you get it, it will cost roughly 650 for the third upgrade. This is ridiculous because you earn credits way too slowly. I never earned more than 70-ish credits in even the harder missions toward the end of the game. So if I really wanted to get an expensive upgrade, I had to go through missions again and again and again. This doesn’t really mesh well with the game’s opening message that says, “You worked hard to earn your money. Your time is precious. Thank you for buying and playing our game”. I certainly worked hard to earn all of this in-game money, but I didn’t feel like my time was being treated like it was as precious as they say it is.
That’s a recurring issue for the game: little consideration is given to the player. You’re not only repeating the same levels over and over in order to earn money for upgrades, but the levels you’re playing should seem eerily familiar to anyone who has played the game’s prequel – Habroxia. Enemy types, attack patterns, and entire bosses are often exactly the same. Habroxia 2 has a bit of stuff that’s brand new, sure, but it is way too similar. If you own the first game, I’d say that there is absolutely no reason for you to check this one out.
Credit where credit is due, however – Habroxia 2 is at least competently made in the gameplay department. I never encountered any bugs, and bullets always went where I wanted them to. Something Habroxia does especially well is in presenting all of the game’s action in a readable way. Enemies can have a specific attack pattern on one level, only for that same enemy to shoot new projectiles in another. You’ll learn the shapes, colors, and types of bullets just as well as the various types of enemy ships. This is largely due to the nicely-detailed and pixelated art style. Couple those visuals with the game’s plunky little soundtrack, and it gets top marks for presentation. One exceptionally nice touch is that you can go into the game’s menu in order to change the song to any available in the soundtrack.
Shiny pixels, nice music, and ho-hum gameplay do not make up for the areas in which Habroxia 2 on Xbox falters. Fans of the first Habroxia will likely be upset by the blatant copy and paste content, while anyone who hasn’t played the first could find a more interesting space shooter in many places. Has it been a while since you’ve given Space Invaders a go? It may be 43 years old, but it’s still better than this.