There's nothing like a game that promises to take us back to the good old days. Galak-Z accomplishes this quite well, but does it also carry too much baggage of decades-old gaming? Strap on your space helmet because we're about to take off.
Galak-Z follows the story of a young space pilot named A-Tak. Although he's rather lonely at the start of his adventure, he soon meets up with a few individuals who assist him in taking out evil forces. It's a rather cookie-cutter plot, but where the game shines is in the way it's presented. Each character (including your enemies) has their own personality that's portrayed wonderfully through beautifully animated illustrations and great voice work. It comes across as a Saturday morning cartoon that people my age grew up watching. The in-game graphics are rendered quite nicely with cel-shaded ships and expansive backgrounds. There's also a pretty awesome soundtrack that helps maintain the spacey vibe. Overall, it's easy to get immersed in the world of Galak-Z.
Thankfully, the core gameplay is as well done as the presentation. You hold buttons to accelerate and reverse, strafe, shoot, aim missiles, and boost which can make your hand cramp after playing it for hours on end (trust me, it's difficult to type right now). Tapping other buttons allow you to view the map, transform between a ship and a mech, and hop out of harm's way. One stick aims (which points your ship in the direction to both move and shoot) while the other one lets you sneak a peek at what's ahead. As you can already tell, there are a lot of controls, but after playing for a little while you'll adjust and realise how intuitive they are. Switching from your projectile-shooting ship to your sword-wielding mech depending on the situation you're faced with will make you feel like quite the force to be reckoned with. The battles sure get fierce, but these controls certainly do a great job of matching their intensity.
The biggest downside by far is the progression system. The entire journey consists of five seasons with five episodes in each. If you fail in one of these episodes then you have to start the whole season all over again. I enjoy a challenging game as much as anyone else, but playing an incredibly difficult game for over an hour only to accidentally get a game over on the last part of episode five will make anyone's blood boil. To help you along the way, you can upgrade your ship by finding, purchasing, and equipping various weapons, stat boosts, and temporary power-ups. This can be a very satisfying experiment as you discover what works best for you. However, you lose all of these upgrades every time you get a game over and when you start a new season. Shouldn't I be rewarded if I make it to the next season? How come I have to start from scratch? It makes no sense. The only significant items that carry over are blueprints for purchasable items and collected Crash coins that you can trade for money which both have the potential to give you a much-needed boost.
After I was done with Galak-Z, I looked back at what I've accomplished over my countless missions and came to the realization that I basically did the same thing over and over again. Don't get me wrong, the gameplay is handled extremely well, but there isn't enough variety to keep it interesting. Whether the mission involves taking out a specific enemy, hauling an object from point A to point B, or destroying an enemy asset; it all feels the same. The developers have some incredible gameplay to work with yet they chose not to explore more possibilities. For example, after completing the first season's boss fight; I was looking forward to fighting more bosses down the road. Then, after slowly working my way through the next couple seasons, there were none to be found. If there was some extra content such as a list of challenges to complete, multiplayer, leaderboards, or various modes then Galak-Z would have felt like a more complete package. Instead, its bare-bones mission-after-mission model makes it a rather empty and unvaried adventure.
Galak-Z features some fantastic gameplay in a beautiful package. However, its lack of variety and content combined with an incredibly frustrating progression system make it a game that doesn't live up to its full potential. In the end, if you want a challenging space shooter and can overcome its flaws then you won't be disappointed taking to the skies and shooting until your hand cramps up.
- + Wonderful cartoonish presentation
- + Tight and thrilling gameplay
- + Although temporary, upgrading your ship can be quite a rewarding experiment
- - Infuriating progression system makes you feel like you're constantly wasting your time
- - Lack of substantial gameplay variety
- - No extra content or online features