The evil god Hydorah has been laying waste to mankind and, since all the really big and cool space-bound weaponry has either already been ripped to shreds or is about to be, the job of defeating him and his hordes of minions has been left in the hands of a lone pilot in a fighter. And for those of you playing shoot 'em up cliche bingo, so far you should have already marked off "unexpected attack", "solo suicide mission" and "humanity decimated" on your cards.
The route to Hydorah himself is arduous but that path forks a couple of times along the way so players can pick and choose the route they want to take to that final showdown or even attempt the lot if they're brave enough. And because the going will become harder as the mission proceeds, there are power-ups disgorged by destroyed enemies to collect, some to give a little more "oomph" to the primary and secondary weapons, others to increase the stock of smart bombs and some of the bosses drop new toys to add to the arsenal which can be selected at the start of a stage.
HYDORAH THE EXPLORER
The stages themselves tick off a couple enough cliche bingo squares that somebody should be calling "house" soon, there are green and pleasant lands peppered with death-dealing robots, a sandy desert world where the occasional blizzards push the ship around, vicious plant life and oversized insects, a flotilla of human ships that are then ravaged by the enemy, quite familiar for fans of the genre but rather well executed too with set pieces. The graphics try to relive the 1980's look, although the process of scaling them up during play adds an unfortunate blurring on most video cards (it wasn't anything at our end that blurred the screenshots!) but the music and sound effects are effective.
In many respects, Hydorah takes it's cues from more traditional Konami or Taito shooters of the 1980's with a ship-sized collision area, one hit destroying the player and a relatively low enemy bullet count for at least the first half of the game, but because there are more levels here than any of it's muses (sixteen in total which are divided into twenty seven sub-levels and accompanied by a startling thirty boss fights), developer Locomalito wanted it to be a little more accessible and has added a save system; there are only three slots available to start with so they need to be used wisely and indeed sparingly.
That larger scale does mean that Hydorah feels at least a little different to the games that inspired it such as Gradius, Armalyte or Darius since seriously fluffing things up on a later level really doesn't have the same finality when the game can be wound back to a nearby save point without penalty. A few more hardcore shoot 'em up players who primarily go for high scores have complained that it's too easy to "milk" some of the bosses, but for slightly more casual shooting fans who like a challenge and the oldschool styling, there's more than a whiff of the 1980's vibe to Hydorah and it should offer a decent-sized chunk of long-term playability.