GALAK-Z Review – Mechs and Permadeath (PS4)
There’s an intergalactic battle going on between the forces of Earth and the mighty Imperials, and GALAK-Z places you right in the middle of it. Following the story of a brash, young pilot name A-Tak, the rogue-like shooter has players fighting off countless enemies and aliens, obtaining and upgrading a variety of weapons, and tactfully changing their vehicle from a spaceship to a mech and vice-versa. It’s both a highly entertaining and frustrating game, but it does have a few small issues that hamper its enjoyment, such as the incredibly annoying side-dialogue.
Time to Save the World
GALAK-Z‘s story is fairly straightforward, and while it doesn’t offer anything unique, it also doesn’t try to get in the way of the title’s fantastic gameplay. Basically, after A-Tak’s companions are killed in battle, he is left as one of the sole defenders of Earth, along with some new friends he makes along his adventures. In order to save Earth, he has to undertake a total of 25 missions strewn out across five different “seasons.” Each season becomes available after its predecessor is cleared, and each season contains five missions. The idea of seasons in a non-story oriented game seemed odd at first, 17-BIT had a reason behind them — to give players an acceptable place to restart after dying.
See, GALAK-Z, being a rogue-lite game, has permadeath, meaning that each time A-Tak is blown into smithereens, the game restarts back at the beginning of the current season. That means all purchased upgrades are gone, and coins are gone (unless these special “Crash Coins” are collected, allowing you to gain some money when starting over), forcing the player to begin the ship power-up process all over again. Permanent upgrades, such as the ability to strafe, are kept, and story missions remain completed.
Every quest, by the way, begins as a story mission. In other words, all uncompleted quests connect together and tell the story of how A-Tak attempts to save Earth. If, however, you complete the first two missions in a season and then die, when going back to the first two missions, you will find that they are no longer part of the overarching story, and instead are randomly generated quests. It’s an interesting approach to the randomly generated levels found in almost all rogue-like games, and while at first it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense, the idea soon sinks in and the missions become less confusing.
Unfortunately, while the idea of having story missions and randomly generated quests is neat, most of the quests feel too similar. Almost all of them involve either fetching some type of crate, or destroying certain enemies, and the missions begin to blur into one another. It’s a bit of a turn-off, but luckily the game’s fast-paced combat and different enemy types somewhat makes up for the bland missions.
On the surface, the combat in GALAK-Z looks what can be found in any other two-dimensional space game — holding down the fire button and twirling around madly to spew lasers as a myriad of oncoming enemy spacecraft. And while it is true that sometimes the only way to kill enemies is to widly shoot lasers and missiles at them, there are a couple huge differences between this game and others in the genre.
For one, your spaceship can turn into a mech. After completing the first season, players are able to turn their spaceship into a mech at will, or vice-versa. Unlike the spaceship, which specializes in ranged attacks, the mech can be used for up-close sword attacks and grapples. Sword attacks can deal huge amounts of damage, while grapples can snatch enemies away from their companions and then it can be used to throw those enemies into different pus to the parts of the environment, which brings us to the second unique aspect of GALAK-Z — the game’s environments can both help and harm the player.
While zipping around the different levels, players will come across a variety of different environment hazards, such as lava pools, creepy aliens that pop out of the wall and snatch whatever is in front of them, exploding barrels, and more. All of these things are interactive, and all of them can deal heavy damage to players if they get too close. However, they will also equally damage enemies if they get too close. This enable players to grapple and throw enemies into spiky plants or electrical wires to deal damage, or it even allows players to shoot the pools of lava and send globules flying all over the screen, damaging anything they touch. The environment can be used as a weapon, and smart players will use it to destroy more enemies than they use their own guns or swords. Smart players will also pit enemies against other enemies, which is another thing that makes GALAK-Z both unique and entertaining.
There are a few different enemy factions, including the pirates, the Imperials, and the bugs, all they all hate each other just as much as they hate the player. If they get close to each other, it becomes an all-out brawl between them and you, although often I found that I could just hang back and let the enemy factions take each other out before swooping in and killing the remaining few enemies. It’s incredibly satisfying watching the bad guys kill each other, and deciding when to jump into a battle adds an extra level of enjoyment and strategy to the rogue-lite shooter.
One thing that doesn’t add any enjoyment at all is the incredibly annoying little bits of side-dialogue that A-Tak says. While at first a bit endearing, and even a little funny, his constant catch-phrase type dialogue soon feels overdone and slightly immature. While it is possible to simply turn off the voices or turn down the volume, that would mean missing some story dialogue. Still, that might be better than hearing how much A-Tak hates bugs for the millionth time after taking yet another one of them out.
However, despite the annoying side-dialogue and the somewhat repetitive missions, GALAK-Z presents players will highly engaging and even strategic gameplay. By letting players use their environments to their advantage, change from a spaceship to a mech, and by giving players the opportunity to let their enemies kill each other off, GALAK-Z manages to separate itself from the rest of the space shooter pack and give fans something fairly unique. If you haven’t already picked it up, I recommend you do so as soon as possible.
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