Review Shooter

Horgihugh and Friends – Review

Enjoy games where cute animals kill cute things and some minor comedy? Horgihugh and Friends by Aksys Games has you covered. An expansion on the PC title HORGIHUGH (ホーギーヒュー), it falls into the ‘Cute ‘Em Up’ subgenre, within Shoot ‘Em Up or Shmups.

Horgihugh and Friends - Story

Raining Cats and Dogs

Horgihugh and Friends throw players right into the thick of it. An alien force lands on the planet, takes over technology, and starts to enslave the planet’s residents. 

Fortunately, Horgihugh and his rival Figaro both gave up on civilization and live on some peaceful islands piloting biplanes. This old technology happens to be impervious to the alien threat and thus our unlikely dog and cat duo have to fly across the world, shoot down the alien menace and save the day.

It’s a fair narrative for the genre and the intro is well-drawn. There is one issue though and it’s a biggie and one that anyone who’s played Gunvolt Azure Striker will know all too well.

At the start of every level, it gives you a bit of dialogue and explains why you happen to be flying through the dangerous area you are. Unfortunately, this covers a big chunk of the screen. In a game where a touch means instant death, not being able to see every bullet and enemy is a huge negative.

Horgihugh and Friends - Shmup

It’s a Dog’s Life

Horgihugh and Friends is a traditional horizontal shoot ’em up. You’ll fly your biplane from left to right, dodging bullets, shooting down aliens, collecting gems, and trying to not fall into the arms of inevitable death. 

Using the gems you collect, you can buy upgrades and lives from the store that appears in the stage. In a little homage to Fantasy Zone, you can also collect emblems that upgrade your ship and even find the odd upgrade or Life on the field.

You have a basic shot that eventually upgrades to a double shot and can also drop bombs. If you’re controlling Horgihugh, you get the assistance of Figaro should you reach the level 4 upgrade. Figaro is playable too, but is the game’s easy mode. It consistently pairs him with Horgihugh, but only allows you to play until level 4.

The shop provides various shot enhancements such as missile variations, reflecting missiles, and even a shield. If you get hit, you lose them until you purchase them again which is a kick in the nuts and bolts.

Buy Some Treats

With the gems you collect, you can also rebuild your village. This initially doesn’t do anything but after rebuilding a certain amount you unlock shops and gallery options.

The shop has various items which can make the main game slightly easier. This starts with a strong shot, doing a loop whenever you’re hit, or similar. It rewards the grind of playing until you hit the wall and then coming to your village and spending those precious gems.

Horgihugh and Friends - Forest

Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Horgihugh and Friends is a shmup that rewards memorization instead of reactions. Your hitbox is huge, bullets are small and hard to keep track of, the environment will kill you, and the second you forget then the game will spawn an enemy behind you to mess with you.

To try and even the odds, Horgi and Figaro can do a loop in their biplane which makes them invincible and draws in nearby gems. Learning the use of this is the best way you’ll see the credits roll. But even with this move, Horgihugh and Friends is tough.

While on paper I should have loved Horgihugh and Friends, the difficulty I feel relied too much on remembering what enemy appeared from behind and where and how easy it was to just lose a life because of the small bullets and how hectic the screen can get.

The bosses are also exhausting as the only way you can tell you’re doing any damage is by a sound when shot in the right area. This can awkwardly lead to even lengthier boss fights.

Finally, it just feels a little too limp, I never really got any enjoyment out of score chasing, rebuilding the village, or taking anything down. It just lacked that killer feedback and action. Instead, it just felt like a slow flight to death without the charm of other Cute Em Ups like Parodius, Game Tengoku Crusin Mix, or RangerDog.

Horgihugh and Friends - City

Well Groomed Pet?

 Visually Horgihugh and Friends starts with a nicely drawn cutscene and then takes off into a colorful yet held-back 16-bit visual style.

None of the sprites in the game have that many frames of animation. The backgrounds are static and the explosions are a little limp. It feels like a halfway mix between the classic sprite style and the HD smoothing that gives games that mobile look, but it lacks the charm of either.

The music was fine. Nothing was too distracting, but there was nothing noteworthy either which was a shame. I was expecting some cheery jingles to jam to while dodging bullets.

The visual style is in line with what a Cute Em Up should be. I just don’t think it leaned enough into the animals with human abilities theme enough and the static backgrounds coupled with the slow scrolling speed made the game feel flat.


It’s hard to recommend Horgihugh and Friends when I had such high expectations dashed.

It’s not a bad game per se, but it’s full of annoying cheap deaths and the visual department doesn’t hit where it needs to. It certainly isn’t my “go-to” cute ’em up, but there is certainly is worse on the market. Sorry, Horgi – you’re not the best boy.


Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC (Alternate version)

If you would like to see more Shooters, you may be interested in our review of Cotton Fantasy or some of the other Cotton titles.

Many thanks go to Aksys Games for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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