‘Habroxia 2’ Is An Old-School Style Made Modern – Game Review
Habroxia 2 is a retro space shooter built for the modern era. Lillymo Games delivers a fast, fun, and energetic take on the classic formula. This follow-up to their 2019 title Habroxia improves on the original in many ways and rewards your time with solid gameplay.
For the sequel, the team at Lillymo punched the pixel art from the original into overdrive. Habroxia 2 (simply put) is a slick-looking shooter made better by its excellent pixel art – from the background, to the enemies, to your blasts. Everything in Habroixa 2 fits together in harmony.
Lillymo’s game brings a lot of great features to the shoot-em-up genre and chief among them is the “special weapon” system. Your standard bullets are tied to the right thumbstick like most twin-stick shooters, but the magic comes from your bumper based specials. The weapons vary, including lasers, orbs, bombs, rockets, gravity blades (some kind of swipey space sword that I am all the way trash with), and more. Sabrina’s ship can fire these selectable specials to the front or back of her vessel.
This mechanic has a lot of depth to it from the tiered charges (that affect the number of bullets fired as it’s charged) to the option of loading different volleys into the front or back slots of the ship. It gives players a ton of freedom in their loadout options and we haven’t even mentioned the best part. Active Reloads (ish)! Or what I’ve come to call “Free-loading”. The tiers that were mentioned change your special weapon’s destructive power as it charges up. You are free to fire at charge levels one, two, or three, and the bullet count of each blast goes up at higher levels. The pièce de résistance is if you fire right as you hit max charge (a little star appears) you get a boost in the number of bullets fired. There is something intentionally satisfying when you nail one of the max charge blasts. It can really save your hide and makes each level worth the ride.
Not to be outdone there is also a host of in-level pickups that pop out from enemies and objects like candy. These one-shot weapons are uber helpful and fill a Mario Kart styled weapon slot for different offensive or defensive tools. One stand out was the screen crossing “Laser Blast” (maybe the most destructive and satisfying to use). The other nice surprise was the fact that some of the items can stack in interesting ways. You can achieve near Wakandan Vibranium levels of defense with an upgraded Bubble and Orbital Shield active at the same time.
Free Space Surplus
Let’s get into the features because Habroxia 2 has a surprising abundance. For one the game is inspired by the retro but modernizes at every turn. Speaking of turns Habroxia’s key innovation is its directional shifts. Some levels start vertical while others begin horizontal and there are even shifts in direction that happen midstream. It’s a quick transition and an easy adjustment in tactics. The shifts keep you focused and helps the levels stay fresh.
The mighty River Roxia changes direction mid-level, but it can also branch at its ends. Many of the levels have multiple bosses and uncovering the hidden “alternate paths” to face them is never an unattainable goal. Add in the enemy bounties plus the collectible astronauts and you have plenty of goals to chase in space. One note, the first time you accidentally kill a floating astronaut buddy it’s ok to feel shame (so sorry Alya, my bad).
Another key feature is the unique upgrade system. The ship’s shooting speed, spread, and damage can all be adjusted. You can throw currency (earned in and after levels) at individual pickup efficiency or special weapon shot power. The list of upgrades has a lot of variety, and the ability to sell back your upgrades. It’s pretty awesome that Lillymo included the selling feature because it lets players try out new builds with no consequence. True player agency.
Rounding out the features, once you complete the main game and its bosses – New Game Plus, Boss Rush, and Boost Rush are all unlocked. “Boosting” is a recurring power I have yet to touch on, but it is a useful tool for evasion. A quick trigger pull speeds up movement, makes Sarina’s ship invincible for a short time, and does damage to… well everything. Boost Rush lets players traverse a deadly maze at Mach speed. It’s pretty challenging.
Speaking of challenge, the New Game Plus mode in Habroxia 2 will add hours to your enjoyment because it is a big jump in difficulty. Bosses take much more damage and show off some new techniques in their second forms. Throughout the entire experience, the bosses do a great job of introducing new mechanics. If not for the great-looking levels, the boss fights of Habroxia 2 would be the real star. It’s ok though they’re still the coolest Norse ships in the nebula.
This may be a short section but it’s an important one. HangOnGetReady crushed it with the soundtrack of Habroxia 2. The chiptunes and retro rhythms lead this game to its highest highs. Cruising Through Eternity, Arrive//Engage, Zero Hour (the most Megaman-y), and Interstellar Resolve are exciting earworms. Every track works to add something to the action on the screen. At the best times the bullets, background, and movement match up to be somehow on beat. Those moments are why we game. When it all gels together, that’s Habroxia in harmony.
If we’re ranking the best music to maneuver to, “The Repose of Weightlessness” (what a killer title for the corresponding song) is the stand-out track, but “Return Coordinates Locked” and Impact Imminent are up there. The too-long didn’t read version of this section is hire HangOnGetReady for your indie projects. Habroxia’s music is fantastic.
Geeks of Color rating: 4/5
Habroxia 2 is coming to PS4, PS Vita, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC/Steam for $9.99 at launch and there’s plenty of gameplay here to justify the cost. This lite bullet-hell never feels like bullshit. It has a forward-thinking old-school formula with excellent music and stellar bosses. Lillymo Games proves that with the right load-out tweaks you can beat any battle.
Habroxia 2 launches on February 3rd!
P.S. I wanted to title this review “Bullet Hell? More Like Bullet Swell!?” but I also didn’t want GoC to fire me…