Review: GALAK-Z (PS4)

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Title: GALAK-Z
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.4 GB)
Release Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: 17-BIT
Developer: 17-BIT
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
GALAK-Z is also available on PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

GALAK-Z represents a combination of so many great things that it was difficult to approach it with any form of skepticism. It’s a shoot-em-up with roguelike role-playing elements. It harkens back to 80’s anime (think Robotech) with some amazing authenticity. And yes, it has a giant transforming robot. So basically, it has everything awesome in one package.

Gameplay:
With so many elements combining into a single game it would seem imperative to have the tightest gameplay possible. GALAK-Z is a brutal game (if you die, you start from the beginning of a five season level) but it gives you everything you need to succeed. You maneuver narrow caverns and engage in combat in some of those same locations, so precise controls become integral to the experience.

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Fortunately, from the onset you are given all of the precise control mechanics to make combat and exploration not only manageable, but also an extreme pleasure. R2 boost propels your ship forward at a moderate speed while hitting R1 gives you a quick boost. Inertia plays a huge role in the game so that quick R1 boost allows you to change directions at a moment’s notice, keeping you from plowing into enemy fire or running into an environmental hazard.

The game is forgiving when bumping into walls, for which I am eternally grateful, but other hazards in the environment can cause damage to your shields. So flying towards a onslaught of enemies, only to turn left on the stick and hit that boost, gives you that awesome experience of combat in space that goes beyond just pushing your controller in the direction that you want to fly.

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A bit further in the game you will also be able to strafe enemies as you blast them showing that 17-BIT knew exactly what you would need to survive some of these encounters. Planning combat is a requirement because this is not a “guns blazing” experience, although battles can become pretty spectacular.

… There is depth here …
GALAK-Z rewards exploration so simply meeting the mission objective and heading home is not always advisable. Sometimes, checking that unexplored region might yield an update to your missile system, which looks amazing by the way.

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Thus, with these combined elements of a shooter and roguelike experience, it’s nice to see that 17-BIT didn’t limit the game by making it a simple point-and-shoot. There is depth here both in terms of combat strategy and exploration.

… a huge nod to 80’s anime …
Visuals:
When debating what excerpt to use for this review, I kept going back to “Authenticity Managed!” Few games targeting 80’s nostalgia manage to capture that authentic feel of the period. Alien Isolation did a fantastic job of going back to the age when scan lines and bad VHS head distortion were commonplace and the developers of GALAK-Z went that extra mile to do the same. After all, the game is a huge nod to 80’s anime.

Your pause screen looks like the distorted menu of an old VHS player complete with an SLP indicator on the top of the screen (look it up, young’uns). The main character is a rookie pilot who very much resembles Rick Hunter from Robotech.

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Equally, the enemy designs are fine-tuned to resemble characters from that era. Throughout the missions the bottom right of the screen is populated with an animated version of the character. If you fire blasters, the small screen lights up. If you hit the accelerator, you will see the character react accordingly.

Beautiful stylized lighting effects surround the environment reacting to laser blasts and explosions while maintaining that authentic cartoony look. GALAK-Z is another testament to style over having to adhere to the expectations of AAA graphic prowess. It’s a great looking game without having to compete with the next Uncharted.

… It is not an easy game …
Audio:
Voiceover compliments the action and it makes the experience even more intense. This is, of course, on top of the brilliant effects and music work. It’s nice to hear your character talk smack to the enemies as he’s laying down some blaster fire, or express concern when his shields are down, which also reminds you to tactfully retreat at times. Of similar note is that authenticity I was referring to on the visual side. Pressing the pause button brings up the menu screen, which is accompanied by the familiar sounds of the 80’s era.

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Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only with no online components.

Conclusion:
I could not help but fall in love with GALAK-Z. It is not an easy game and starting a “season” over when you die is never fun but the game does not forget your progress and you don’t have to fight everything you see. In that respect, getting through stages is not nearly as frustrating as other roguelike games.

What you have here is an awesome experience that comes packed with airtight responsive controls, a great upgrade system, and a fun visual style to seal the deal. This is definitely one of my favorite games this Summer and it ranks up there with Axiom Verge as one of my favorite indie titles of this console generation.

Score:
9.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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  • Psn Merc

    You forgot to mention that the game is incomplete right now. Season 5 is MIA so you can’t even finish the game until sometime in September.