Hug Survivor is a horizontal shoot-em-up with a bit of a twist. Instead of directly shooting the evil birds, Walnut brings her friends Kurumi and Pepoka to do all the work for her! However, Walnut’s pals get demotivated very easily – that’s when she comes in to hug them! The real question is, how will you, as Walnut, motivate them and avoid dying at the same time?
Released: 7th February 2023
Available on: Steam
Wait, you have to hug your friends to do the shooting for you?
In Hug Survivor, the only abilities you have is moving around and hugging Walnut’s friends. Kurumi throws a barrage of weak ice cream cones horizontally across the screen while Pepoka throws harder-hitting hamburgers at a shorter range. However, not only do Walnut’s friends frequently lose motivation and therefore decrease the ferocity of their attacks, but they also can’t move on their own… unless you hug them! By hugging, you can haul the friends around to better positions and boost their motivation. At the end of each wave, you get the chance to pick between three upgrades, usually movement speed increases, stronger attacks, or making Walnut’s friends easier to carry.
Moreover, Kurumi and Pepoka are invulnerable to any type of attack, meaning that the core gameplay heavily involves optimizing movement, friend hugging and placement, and keeping Walnut out of danger – it’s game over if she gets hit twice in any single wave! This makes the game feel more like a resource management simulator while staying in the realm of shmups and it is the best part of the game.
To top it all off, at the end of each stage is a boss fight with the master of those evil birds, Nishiya. In these battles, you have to dodge her attacks and weaken her (and, purposefully or accidentally, leave her in her underwear) before she is defeated, and then hug her to end the stage!
You know, hugs are great!
Hug Survivor’s gameplay, while short, is pretty much its strongest suit, lifting the whole game on its shoulders. The plot isn’t anything thought-provoking, rather it relies mostly on comedy. While not a bad thing on its own, the writing and humor used likely are victims to the confusing Japanese-to-English translation, so they don’t make a lot of sense. I wasn’t sure what Walnut and friends were up to, save for embarking to stop Nishiya and her birds.
The characters are anime-styled but otherwise, the game tends to prefer minimalist art, with all stages taking place on a road, and backgrounds and enemies preferring patterned art. Although projectiles are 3D objects, they do mesh well with the drawn characters.
The game starts with a fairly difficult single-player campaign where each death merely forces you to retry from the last checkpoint, and also offers a hard mode where the stages become generally harder, and your lives are limited – provided you beat the single-player mode first.
Hug Survivor is an unusual horizontal shmup where you don’t directly shoot, but hug and move your friends around to do the shooting for you. This makes the gameplay feel more like resource management with all the reflexes and quick-thinking skills that the shmup genre demands. Even if the story suffers from its English translation, the gameplay alone is worth getting the game on sale!