STAFF REVIEW of Hexapoda (Xbox One)

Monday, October 30, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Hexapoda Box art I’m such a big fan of shumps (shoot-em-ups) that I’ll basically try any new game in the genre, regardless of how it looks or may appeal to me. One of my favorite games of all time, and what I regard as the greatest shmup ever, is Ikargua, and while I don’t ever expect a game to reach those heights, I always compare in some way to see if it could be just as good in its own way.

We have the latest from small indie dev TOMAGameStudio, Hexapoda. Many insects are actually called hexapoda, something new I learned, and is very fitting given the game backdrop of you shooting hundreds of insects, a nice change from your typical battle versus invading aliens. What may stand out to you initially though is its black and white tones, making the colored bullets pop and stand out more in the foreground.

The surface of Earth is no longer hospitable, forcing humanity to flee and live underground after a war that left unbreathable gasses in the atmosphere. The problem is that under the surface where you dwell, it’s infested by deadly bugs and insects that are massive. This is where you come in, as to survive, someone is going to not only clear out the bugs, but try to find a solution to that you can reemerge to the top side once again.

While you’ll need to clear out as many bugs as you can for safety, your true main objective is to find samples so that they can be tested, especially from the massive Queen that’s said to be deep below. Defeat each boss, grab a sample and continue on your journey. After each level you’ll be presented with a branching path, able to freely choose which way to go. Each path takes you towards a different boss and will also get you one of the few different endings, so there’s some replayability built into its design.

Not usually an option in smaller games like this, you can actually play up to four players simultaneously, each being a slightly different looking ship and a base weapon. There are three different difficulty modes to choose from, Normal, Hard and Manic. Normal wasn’t an issue to clear at all for a shmup vet, but Hard and Manic were actually quite challenging, almost to the point of feeling unfair at certain moments, especially during boss fights.

With four different ships to choose from, they don’t have any stat differences, but their base weapon does vary between the different types you’ll see once you get some power-ups. I do wish this was a bit clearer though, as I wasn’t initially sure what the differences of the four ships were. Across the twelve stages you’ll unlock a vast bestiary as you kill enemies, some only appearing in certain branching paths.

Controls are as simple as they come; you have one button for shooting, one for a screen clearing bomb, and moving your ship with the Left Stick. By default, Hexapoda is a vertical shooter where you’re constantly scrolling upwards, though you can certainly change the video options to play it like the other horizontal styled shmups, all depending on your preference.

Enemies come in waves and you must do what you can to avoid all the bullets on screen while taking out every bug you can. Many will drop stars that can be collected for points, and you’ll also see a bunch of power-ups drop as well that will give you new weapons for a short time. These upgrades only last for a short period of time, maybe 30 seconds or so, so make sure you destroy all the bugs you can in that period of time. Every time you grab a new weapon power-up, the timer will reset, so it’s not often you’ll revert back to your base weaponry.

There are a few different weapon types you can gather, from a condensed laser, spread shot, homing missiles and even a shot that bounces off enemies and walls. These are indicated by H, W, and S floating objects to pick up, as well as a P that can upgrade the spread and damage of your weapons. At times you’ll be constantly swapping weapons as you’re given that many at times when lots of bugs are destroyed together.

While going through each stage isn’t terribly difficult to avoid the bullets on screen, the bosses can feel unfair at times, especially on Hard or Manic. I swear there were spots that were unavoidable to get hit. This may be partly because the hitbox for your ship felt large, so it was challenging at times to avoid a premature death.

The black and white aesthetic is eye catching at first, yet still has plenty of detail in the environments and bugs. Your bullets are blue and enemy shoots purple at you, so these pop on the screen against the monochrome backdrop. The star was clearly the kickass electronica synthwave soundtrack from band Double Dragon that had me excited to play each level, hoping to hear a new track taking a new pathway.

Hexapoda is a simplistic shmup that should certainly entertain for a weekend, and while I don’t see myself revisiting it later in the future, it’s solid overall with nothing really to complain about as you try and climb up the leaderboards each run. Good luck trying to survive the harder difficulty modes though if you want a real challenge.

**Hexapoda was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.8 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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