Hovership Havoc is a new twin-stick arcade shooter from indie developer Snow Day Software. Players have an option between four different hoverships to choose from to tackle a gauntlet of three stages. While three stages may not seem like much, the game is given depth and replayability by rewarding XP during play. Players can use earned XP to upgrade the base stats of ships and make the more difficult levels a more manageable challenge. As a classic arcade-style game Hovership Havoc is quick to the point and quick to the action.
Players get to choose from one of four ships before each attempt at clearing the game. The Devastator is a ship with short range but a wide spread and high damage up close, the shotgun of the ships. The Plasma Gatling is similar to the Devastator but with a longer range at the cost of an unreliable spread. The Laser Blaster is the all-rounder between the two, middling damage but slightly higher damage than the Plasma Gatling with a consistent spread and longer range than the Devastator. Finally, the Pulse Cannon is the black sheep of the ships. Rather than a spread to clear waves, the Pulse Cannon relies on range and positioning to stay alive. With the longest range of all the ships, but the lowest spread and highest damage; the Pulse Cannon is a tricky but powerful ship.
Experience points are gained after each attempt at clearing a stage. The points can be allocated in the menu or between stages. Points can only be removed and reallocated from the menu. Points spent between stages can’t be taken back later in the same run. An upgraded ship is useful for tackling the later stages and can compensate for the weaknesses of the ships. The Devastator can have its range upgraded, the Plasma Gatling can be kept from overheating by upgrading weapon cooling and more. A ship’s weapon spread can’t be leveled up though, so while the Pulse Cannon will become more powerful the way it handles will never change.
The stages of Hovership Havoc vary greatly in their difficulty. The first stage can even be completed without any upgrades spent on your ship. While it may be possible to do other stages this way, it’s considerably harder. The first stage consist primarily of little spider-like robots that simply walk towards the player’s ship. Other enemies include flame and rocket turrets that can be taken out with proper timing and range. The second stage however introduces armored walkers and tank enemies. These foes have large health pools, shields and projectiles that can turn a normal wave of enemies into a nightmare. But this increase in difficulty is what makes replaying the stages so worthwhile. Grinding the experience that will turn the second and third stages into an easier to handle challenge is a challenge in and of itself. Hovership Havoc rewards tenacity in its players.
In regards to it’s graphics, Hovership Havoc runs smoothly. Enemies and hazards are easy to identify and stand out in the first and third stages. In the second stage some hazards are difficult to spot. Barrels and boxes blend into the darkened stage and the orange projectiles of the game’s most common shooting enemy matches the stage’s highlights. During boss fights the normally top-down camera is placed behind the ship, changing the game. During these stages the introduction of additional enemies can easily go unnoticed with the changed camera. While the boss fight camera angle is more immersive, it drastically reduces the information that players take in.
The music of Hovership Havoc serves its purpose. The game’s songs are catchy at best but do little more than fill the void of what would otherwise be dead silence. The sound effects of the game are a big help however. When a player’s ship hits an enemy they can hear the sound of denting metal, or the explosion of a foe defeated. The audio tells the players almost as much as the top-down camera angle. Knowing whether your hits are landing properly or if an enemy has been defeated is a big help when keeping track of the waves of enemies that are constantly brought down.
Hovership Havoc is ultimately a challenging arcade game for players after something easy to pick up. Even with only three stages, players can spend a lot of time upgrading their ships and unlocking achievements to test their skill. The game’s system of leveling up and with four ships, players can spend a lot of time in just those three levels. Snow Day Software manages to do a lot with a little in Hovership Havoc.