The story here is simple. The player attempts to guide an UltraBoost Powercraft (i.e., a fast boat that can leap into the air) down various rivers in the land of Hydra. The game is divided into several missions and the player is charged with delivering various components of a secret weapon from one port in Hydra to another in each mission. Naturally, enemies of Hydra are out to steal the parts of that weapon. I assume that's because they know the weapon will be used against them. So, of course, there are plenty of enemies to blast in the game and ample opportunities for the components to be stolen.
The biggest enemy in this game, however, is the UltraBoost Powercraft. Why? Because it gets horrible gas mileage, and the player must continually look for sources of petrol in the rivers -- fuel drums as well as blue and green crystals. Believe me, keeping enough fuel in the blasted speedboat is a difficult task, and running out of fuel means the game is over (strangely, the game doesn't end when the player crashes or is shot by an enemy).
The player, too, is searching for money and rings that are worth points. Those can be in the river or in the air. To grab the ones in the air, the boat has the ability to leap up and grab things. Some enemies, too, fly around in the air, and can be shot when the boat leaps. In order to jump, though, that ability must be purchased or found in the form of orange crystals floating in the river.
The money gained during the missions can be used to purchase more powerful weapons, fuel, jumps, shields and other goodies. Advanced weapons range from an uzi cannon to a nuclear weapon that destroys everything on the screen.
Graphically, this game is well-done, but built for speed. What I mean by that is that the UltraBoost Powercraft, enemies, crystals and the like are detailed, but unessential scenery is tolerable but nothing fancy. The river scrolls by as a pleasant blue with some lines tossed in for waves, while there are some decent-looking clouds up in the sky. The river is surrounded by rocks and what appear to be dead trees, and mountains can be seen looming in the background. The only real complaint I have about the graphics is that the player can get easily confused if the boat is moving too fast, and an enemy can be mistaken for a power-up item -- that can be a mess as the player will die if he tries to run over an enemy on accident rather than just blasting it.
However, the game scrolls nicely and features smooth animation with no "jerks" or "pauses." A convincing three-dimensional world is portrayed quite well in this game. Overall, the graphics are well-defined where they need to be, and the game looks very good overall.
The sound is serviceable, but nothing amazing. The motion of the speedboat is represented by a constant hum, while a chime is heard when objects are picked up, explosions are heard when enemies are hit and the normal sound of gunfire is tossed in there, too.
The gameplay is downright addictive. It's set up to let the player start on the mission where he was killed (which usually means he simply ran out of fuel), and restarting from that point is very tempting. The controls are laid out in a logical manner, and it's easy to speed up, slow down, steer, shoot at things and switch weapons. The only complaint I have about the controls is that one must hit the "Option 2" button to make the boat jump. That just feels awkward to me, but I've gotten used to finding that button when necessary. The game is a bit difficult in spots, but not so much that the player will get frustrated and quit. Like I said, it's always tempting to "give it just one more try." That, to me, is the hallmark of a very good game.
Now, I can't help but think I'm playing a rather advanced version of River Raid by Activision for the Atari 2600 when I'm in the middle of Hydra. I always enjoyed River Raid, so that's fine with me. This game also seems to incorporate some elements of Spy Hunter in the mix. Since I enjoyed Spy Hunter at the arcades, that's fine with me, too.
All in all, Hydra is a very solid game for the Lynx, and one can typically find it for a modest amount of cash on eBay or through a store specializing in used video games. I'd recommend picking it up as it's a very pleasant arcade game that looks very good and is quite entertaining.