Horgihugh and Friends is a very strange game.
You’d never guess from the bright screenshots found on this page that Horgihugh and Friends has such a dark story. Essentially, friends Hugh and Figaro are the world’s only hope of survival, after it’s invaded and attacked by aliens known as Gozareans.
The kicker is, they’re both pacifists, having both fled from a war before the alien attack. It’s only because they’ve been off the grid with their old-fashioned planes that they’re not able to fight; everything more advanced has been rendered useless. And so this lovable pair have to do something they’d rather not: fight.
Despite the grand premise though, Horgihugh and Friends is a simple game, really. It’s just a run-of-the-mill shmup with an overly dramatic story. Play as Hugh and you get the full-fat experience, flying through six stages while faces off against giant bosses in order to save the world. Play as Figaro, and things are a bit easier and the story is abridged. Also, a computer-controlled Hugh accompanies him to help him along the way. Aww!
Whoever you choose, the gameplay is the same. Moving from left to right, you shoot pretty much anything that moves. And along the way, there are a range of power-ups to be collected to make your fight a bit easier. There are multiple fire types for your primary weapon, numerous secondary weapons, and a range of bombs. But if you end up being shot down, all of the power ups you’ve collected are lost. Bummer.
There are more ways to get the upper hand on your enemies, too. Gems can be collected, and by quickly making your way to a vendor when they appear, you can take a brief respite from the action while browsing their wares. Most of what’s on offer are simply the upgrades you can find for free, but there are some special items that are more alluring, like a shield, and a couple of items that either increase or decrease the ship of your craft. In any case, its another chance to put you on top. And you’ll need it.
Horgihugh and Friends doesn’t go easy on you. Enemies move erratically and shower the screen with bullets. Obstacles also stand in your path, often limiting your movement. These challenges wouldn’t be too troublesome to overcome if it wasn’t for the twitchy movement of your craft, making slight adjustments to your height particularly troublesome. Also, the gems left behind by enemies when you’ve destroyed them look an awful lot like projectiles.
There are other gameplay issues that might frustrate you, too. It’s never overly clear if you’re actually doing any damage to bosses when you shoot them, for example. A simple health bar would have remedied that, or a visual cue. Horgihugh and Friends also has a mechanic that allows you to recover from being shot down providing a meter is full, but it’s very hit and miss. Unless you get hit while at the top of the screen, chances are you won’t have time to react.
All of this isn’t to say that Horgihugh and Friends isn’t an enjoyable shoot ’em up, though. It is fun for the most part, and it has charming visuals as well as a catchy soundtrack. Thanks to an additional mode called Eterday – and some grinding – it can be made much more manageable, too, easing some of its frustrations.
Jump into Eterday and it initially just seems like a passive town-builder mode where the points you earn can be used to restore a town. But eventually you do unlock some facilities that you can interact with, allowing you to purchase permanent upgrades that really boost your chances of survival. For example, there’s one that instantly activates your somersault manoeuvre if available when you come into contact with an any ship or object, keeping your lives intact for another occasion.
Horgihugh and Friends isn’t going to set anyone’s world on fire – it’s not spectacular in any way. Despite some issues, though, it’s a solid shoot ’em up, and thanks to Eterday mode the more you put into it the more you get out. Ultimately, it’s the fact that it’s got cute animals as central characters that’s going to draw you to it, and that feelgood factor wins out. With its grim backstory, you’ll be rooting for Hugh and Figaro every step of the way.