By: Derek Yu

On: June 4th, 2010


Hydorah is here! If you’ve been following the game’s development, I think that’s all you need to hear. It’s great – go download it.

If you’ve never heard of Locomalito, they’re a Spanish indie game crew that has a very well-defined philosophy of creating freeware games that try to redefine arcade gaming for today. Their influences are very clear. In Hydorah’s case, it’s a horizontal shoot ’em up that, at first glance, seems most inspired by Konami’s 1985 arcade hit Gradius.

Aside from some superficial similarities, however, Hydorah is actually fairly different. The game employs three types of weapons: primary, secondary, and “bomb”. The primary and secondary weapons can be upgraded by separate power-ups (red and green). However, a red power-up will turn into green and back if you leave it, giving you some choice about how you want to upgrade. Bomb weapons (yellow) and speed power-ups (blue) are similarly flipped during the game. There’s one other power-up, a purple shield that allows you to take one hit.

Hydorah has 16 levels, but since there are branching paths you needn’t play every one to complete the game. The levels vary in size, from one segment to three or more. Each segment is short but challenging, and ends with a big boss battle. At the end of each level you’re rewarded with a new weapon, either primary, secondary, or bomb, which you can select at the beginning of the next level. There’s some strategy to the weapons that you pick, although they generally seem to get better as you progress. I haven’t collected all the weapons, but it seems like pretty standard fair (wide shot, laser, missiles, etc.).

One of Hydorah’s biggest innovations is its save system. Now, having a save system at all is pretty unique for a shoot ’em up, and might be a turn-off for arcade purists (especially since highscore is also saved), but in my opinion it works pretty well in practice, and is much preferable to having even limited continues. In Hydorah you start with just three saves, and there’s only one save slot. This limited save system forces you to get pretty good at the game but gives you some choice about how you practice. While it may not necessarily redefine the arcade genre, I think it’s a step in the right direction, and a nice concession to more casual players who want to see the game.

The graphics and music are fantastic. Gryzor87’s soundtrack, in particular, deserves mention, especially since it never loops – each track was composed specifically to last as long as the segment of the level it’s played over. The levels themselves are extremely varied, and take you from deep space to planetary surfaces to underground caves, each with a unique backdrops, enemies, and bosses. Some levels even have unique weather that affect your movement. If I have one complaint, it’s that a technical issue with the game causes the graphics to be a bit blurry on my computer (there are some suggestions on how to fix this in the readme, but they didn’t work perfectly).

Hydorah comes highly recommended. It’s a challenging game with an incredible amount of polish and enough new content and features to make it stand-out from the old games it’s based on. Between this and 8-bit Killer Locomalito is definitely a developer to watch. Can’t wait to see what comes out of them next.

TIGdb: Entry for Hydorah

  • Blade

    'Repeating a level over and over and over again is never any fun.'

    If you feel that way, then this style of game is just not for you.

    Most commercial games nowadays seem to be designed to challenge the player -just- enough to make them feel a sense of accomplishment. Designers consciously avoid forcing the player to hone his skills in order to progress further, because there's a fear (justified, as your comments illustrate) that 'today's gamers' will be turned off by having to repeat a portion of the game until they become good enough at it to advance further.

    Some of us are still partial to the uncompromising nature of classic 8- and 16-bit console games. Getting through the games usually involved playing through the early levels repeatedly, and starting over from scratch whenever you ran out of lives or continues, until you gradually mastered each stage. Unlike today's epics, it would often be possible to beat these games in a half-hour to an hour if you could play straight through without dying. It's the practice and repetition and slow process of mastery that gave these games their longevity.

    Some of us still enjoy games like that, and they're becoming increasingly rare nowadays. I'm glad Locomalito went that route with Hydorah, even if it meant sacrificing a potentially broader audience.

  • Stwelin

    In some ways, I like the “uncompromising nature” of those old games… I remember replaying Megaman many, many, many times. Each time you play through you learn better ways to play.

    When I played through Half Life 2, however, I rarely died, if at all. I never got the chance to try a level more than once because the game always pushes you forward and kind-of lets you win.

  • Hempulax

    I agree! The boss was otherwise very simple, but the green lasers had me confused for a long time!

  • Seikeden

    and despite the risk of looking like i'm talking to myself here; this game is great.
    I used my second save after beating level 2 and I'm scared to use my last one now before at least getting to the third section. the intermediary levels are easier, I believe it's designed that way to encourage you to play through them in one go. getting absolutely destroyed at the moment by the floating things in the level with the wind and sand.

  • http://glitchedgames.blogspot.com/ Ashton

    awesome game, I'm terrible at it though :( I can't even beat the second level lol.

  • Google

    these replies are getting really narrow, i wonder if it'll go down to one character per line?

  • Soundofvictory

    Obviously you've never played 'I wanna be the guy.'

  • curious sam

    I dunno, I kind of want to find out though!

  • negative zero

    if anyone's having a bit of trouble with the boss of lvl 2, try this strategy…it sorta worked for me:

    stay around the top of his head so ur bullets and bombs both hit it. it's a rather safe zone from the green lasers it shoots out, and u only have to dodge the normal shots. but every time he finishes shooting those lasers, be prepared to duck back a bit the moment it jumps up so u can dodge the falling rocks.

    the 2nd phase i'm not so sure about…unless ur lvled up and/or lucky, ur toast :p

    can't seem to find the other 5 secrets…

  • Mymail

    After spending days with this, I must declare myself beaten.
    The last few levels (specifically the very last one, and the snake segment of Path of Schylla) are just absurd. When I had really enough, I want and see the youtube video of people beating these two levels. Well, they makes no sense IMO.

    Hard is fine, but it was pushed too far to be fun. In these levels there is literally no location where you can dodge, you just need to <spolier removed> instead, which is not fun, reduces the spectrum of strategies to just one, and reduces the effective number of attempts you have before you have to redo it from start to ONE ship, regardless of number of lives. That's just bad design, I say.

    Apart from that, terrific game, very nice from concept to polish, and a true sign of love and dedication from the authors. If only it was tuned better to be “just” extremely hard (as hard as, say, the pre-last all-bosses level) it would have been TOP NOTCH.

  • Mymail

    (Go the other way first)

    I think the save system is designed to have you redo the entire game from level 0 after days of joyful playing and getting better. It is great to find out you are now so good enough that you can go much further before saving the 1st time. And then… again, a lot later.

    Not a bad design, if you ask me. It makes different “you”s play the same level twice (or even three times).

  • Troll

    Yes, it's hard, but not unfair. You want hard? Try Vulcan Venture on MAME.

  • Francis

    This game is really awesome, many games I download for my psp are over a gig. As are many of those I download for my computer. As long as the game is good I see no reason to be upset over the file size.

  • http://1ccshmup.wordpress.com YrCnoIS

    I've choosen this game to record a easy earned 1cc and now i know how i was wrong! Anyway i'm still trying to beat Hydorah.

  • yrCnoIS

    I did it, after a really long break (more than one year), the 1cc achievement is finally mine! Extra I put videos on my YT channel and WP blog. Do not forget to enter there, especially try to see my blog: http://1ccshmup.wordpress.com/