Hydra is a relatively obscure arcade action game featuring an armed powerboat that is chasing wanted criminals along twisting waterways in order to intercept and recover various stolen artefacts from them.
The original cabinet had a steering wheel and an accelerator pedal to control the boat and the controls are extremely sensitive. Which makes playing the game in an emulator now somewhat tricky.
Even trickier is the knack of keeping the boat going, by collecting floating green and blue balls. These replenish your fuel, which is very limited and will often run out before you reach the next checkpoint.
A variety of opponents and obstacles will get in your way to try to stop you from reaching your objective, and the fact is: making it through a level without exploding your Hydra craft is very difficult. The first time I played Hydra I exploded about ten times in the first minute and failed to reach even the end of the first stage…
You can fire out of the front of the boat, which destroys certain enemies and obstacles in your path, and you can also boost jump into the relative safety of the air to avoid them. Boosting into the air also allows you to pick up money that is found floating on balloons, but only if you’re able to drive through them.
If you manage to recover a stolen artefact, then collide with something and explode, you’ll lose it. So you have to pick it up again if you can. If you lose the artefact a black boat will come by, which you must then shoot to make it drop the artefact again. Since the game moves at quite a pace, it’s not always easy to do this, but you just have to fire at everything that moves in the hope that you can pick it back up again.
If you do manage to make it to the end of a stage and reach the hideout you’ll then be awarded bonus points based on the money you picked-up, whether you managed to hold on to the recovered artefact or not, and also a fuel bonus. If you do have any fuel left at the end of the stage then you’re very lucky, because – man – that powerboat seems to drink it like there’s no tomorrow…
In-between stages there’s a bonus level called “The Hydradome” where the aim is to make as much bonus money as possible, while keeping your boat going by picking up extra fuel. It’s always that damn fuel… There are ramps in The Hydradome that launch you up into the air and flaming barriers that will end you if you collide with them. Crash just once and it’s bonus stage over.
After the bonus stage you then get to visit ‘Ziggy’s Weapon Shoppe’ to buy extra shields, fuel capacity, or new weapons with whatever cash you’ve acquired.
When you start a new game it is possible to select one of three different stages to play, which is a welcome addition, and the game does at least allow you to continue a stage if you put more money into the coin slot. Make no mistake though: Hydra is a game designed to swallow your money as quickly as possible! As are most arcade games…
Hydra is no classic, it must be said, although it is fun to play for a while. Extending a run by boosting your way to a stage exit is a nice feeling, but slowing to a stop just feet away from a checkpoint is the exact opposite. Although Hydra does get the adrenaline going because it’s so hectic, it does leave you feeling that it might have been a better game if the rivers had been a bit wider and the fuel consumption a bit more lenient.
More: Hydra on Wikipedia