Habroxia is a game that you could easily imagine stumbling across in an arcade back in the ‘80s. It has a chiptune soundtrack and arcade cabinet-style blurred heading on the menu screen. It certainly oozes that retro feel.
There are a few modes to be unlocked as you play, but you have to start with the Story Mode. However, this is just a random sequence of levels with no narrative whatsoever. Each does have its own objective, if you like, yet there is limited variation. These range from ‘destroy all enemy ships’ to ‘defeat the boss’, with a few ‘rescue the astronauts’ sprinkled in for good measure. Just to clarify, you don’t actually have to destroy all the enemy ships in those levels to complete them. Phew.
Your little ship can shoot from the front or from the sides. Your primary weapon is the latter, and you can use it with the left trigger or bumper. However, most enemies take more than one hit to destroy, and it feels very fiddly taking them on with this weapon. Instead, your secondary weapon fires from the front of your ship (it feels like this should be the primary) by using the right trigger or bumper, which feels much more comfortable. Or, if you hold a combination of triggers and bumpers from each side of your controller, you will shoot out at a wider angle in a blaster spray. This comes in especially handy for the boss battles.
If you hit Y, you will fire your special weapon. You collect ammo for this which drops from destroying enemies and scenery on the level. You’ll have lasers and bombs at your disposal, but these are to be used strategically as you won’t be able to deploy them too often. In addition to this, you can acquire auto firing rockets early on, which is a nice bonus when the enemies start swarming towards you.
You can upgrade your ship in Habroxia by collecting credits, which again will drop in-level and mainly from defeating bosses – patience dear reader, I’ll get to them soon. You can spend your credits on strengthening your shield, powering up your blasters, and more. Your shield can also be toughened up by collecting hearts from the battlefield, but if you crash into anything you’ll be vapourised instantly. Upgrading awards a slow but noticeable improvement to your ship, meaning you’ll have to choose your upgrades sparingly, as credits don’t go that far at all (a bit like in real life then).
That said, the action starts off at a pretty slow and sedate pace. Let’s be clear. This isn’t Galaga, and it’s definitely not R-Type. It’s somewhere in the middle. Things get more hectic, but you upgrade your ship roughly in proportion which somewhat flattens the difficulty curve. As a result, even casual players will cruise through the levels with relative ease.
In terms of enemies, there is decent variation in their moving patterns and projectiles. Some will fire pretty standard blasters, whilst others will shoot whopping great lasers. It’s exactly what you’d expect from this type of game. There’s no surprises here.
There are, however, a lot of bosses to fight in Habroxia (see, I didn’t forget). In fact, there is one at the end of nearly every level. These are simple shoot and dodge battles, except each boss has a chunkier health bar than your regular enemy. As a result, they are pretty dull encounters, and you essentially battle some twice (they are a bit tougher the second time around) which doesn’t help. Granted, the bosses are a little more complex in the small number of levels where taking them down is your only objective, but not by much.
The one gimmick, if you like, in Habroxia is that the plane you play on switches from horizontal to vertical mid-level, and vice versa. It’s a simple switch, but pretty cool nonetheless.
There’s no multiplayer present in Habroxia, but there are leaderboards. Sadly they are filled with pre-loaded scores and there’s not even any online functionality here either. It’s just not as satisfying to beat a seemingly arbitrary score, instead of one a real person worked towards.
As I mentioned earlier, as you play through Story Mode, which is the main feature of the game, you’ll unlock several other modes. First up is Invasion Mode, where you’ll need to fend off as many enemy waves as you can. Just to make things more difficult, you’re essentially glued to the bottom of the screen, and cannot move upwards. Also, if any enemies reach the bottom of the screen, it’s game over. This mode would have seen online leaderboards come into their own. Still, despite the gameplay feeling simplified here, it’s probably the most fun I had whilst playing Habroxia, in all honesty.
You’ll also unlock Astronaut Mode, which is an endless version of what’s asked of you in some of the story missions. However, don’t go accidentally blasting your floating friends, or that will immediately end your rescue mission.
Another is Boss Rush Mode. This sees you facing a series of boss fights, one after the other. However, due to the fact you’ll have fought off plenty in the main game, there’s very little incentive to play this at all.
Finally, there’s the very intriguingly named Shield Maiden. This is basically a hardcore survival mode. You start with a single shield bar and your weapons at their weakest. However here is a very slow burner, but it at least offers more of a challenge than the other modes.
I found the gameplay in Habroxia to be similar to solving a puzzle using logic, instead of honing the skills required to beat the game. Once you figure out the pattern, it’s pretty easy to beat, making it less satisfying to play.
Put simply, Habroxia on Xbox is an average game which is reasonably priced. It winds up being a pedestrian affair which, whilst offering some thrills in its couple of hours of gameplay, never quite manages to live up to those which inspired it.