by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
The last foray for me into Galak-Z really left me with a sour taste in my mouth. I liked the concept of an outer-space roguelike, especially with that sweet anime feel, and 80s spaceship action gameplay. It was a game that could have knocked it all out of the park, but sadly, it had the crux of pay-to-win (or at the very least pay-to-go-faster) around its proverbial neck. There was so much about it that I found charming but just could not sign off on it in the end. Galak-Z: The Void: Deluxe Edition fixes that by taking away all of that cash shop silliness, putting a regular, reasonable price tag on it, and shaking up the premise of the game. Now it’s still a rogue-lite, is still a physics-based space shooter, and still has the characters I enjoyed in the previous game, but it has a more coherent story and again – no pay-to-win cash shop!
Galak-Z: The Void has a brutal, unforgiving difficulty curve. This is a game that will hold your game through the tutorial, but as soon as that’s over, it pushes you out of the airlock and into the dead of space. I like that, though! It has what I’ve always called “Nintendo Difficulty”. Practice and work will help you get better at this game, but if you can’t get a handle on the controls, you won’t make it past the second episode. The game has two modes, a more relaxed (but still brutal) mode called “Arcade Mode”, the more difficult “Rogue” Mode, and then the endless, brutal, hardcore “Void” Mode, which also features a global leaderboard. Arcade Mode has a save checkpoint after every mission, whereas Rogue Mode has a checkpoint after every Season (Five Episodes/Stages). If you die in Rogue Mode, which I’d argue is the main mode of the game, you start back at the beginning. You can pick up upgrades during an episode, from a shop or simply in a container that you detonate with laser fire, but this isn’t always enough.
As you play through missions, you’ll acquire Salvage, as well as special Coins that can also be turned in for Salvage. You can use this Salvage to purchase upgrades for your poor, weak Galak spaceship. And yes, it’s weak. More often than not you’ll have no missiles, and a weak laser, desperately pushing forward as best as you can. Most of the power-ups you purchase have to be equipped before you launch, but some are automatic (the game will tell you if it is). You’ll cycle through a list of upgrades, which definitely had an R-Type feel to it, and blast off! Galak-Z has a twin-stick feel to it, though, you aim with a stick and shoot with a button. Your thrusters are on the R/L Triggers, and the other R button is your booster. You need to be careful though because careless boosting and shooting will alert nearby alien life or enemy ships. Fortunately, you can see the enemy range of fire (indicated by a cone in front of them), but I found that if I can loop around them and hit the thrusters, I can just fire free on a lot of them and push them around the map. The controls are tight, but you do float about a bit after releasing thrusters, but that’s why you can hold both buttons (forward/backward thruster) to brake.
It’s also key to use the flora/fauna around you – there are creatures out in space that doesn’t like anything, and they will attack you or the enemy ships. You can knock them into flora that will slow or halt them, or bounce them into asteroids/walls and bully them, with some practice. The stages are procedurally generated, and though some of the stage names/missions will feel similar, the maps should not. This is a hardcore game and has that difficulty to go with it. Fortunately, if you don’t feel like that’s for you, but still want to practice the game and enjoy its story, there’s Arcade Mode. I’m not going to judge you for that. That’s something that gets talked about a lot right now, “Should hardcore games have easier modes for beginners”, and I emphatically say yes. There are people that want to buy these games and get into them, but the barrier for entry is not very kind, and the community for games like this tends to just say “lol git gud”, instead of being helpful. I think Arcade Mode, while it’s still hard, is a good way to get into this game if you think it looks neat, but aren’t looking to get your pants yanked around your ankles, and your teeth knocked out.
Die, Die, Die My Darlin’: 4/5
This is what I was hoping the last Galak-Z game would be! I did have some very minor lag/slowdown on my first attempt to play this game, but it stopped after a time or two. The load times are also a little rough, but other than that, I really like Galak-Z has on offer. It’s brutal and unforgiving in its difficulty, but that’s exactly what I expect in a Rogue-like/lite. If this is your cup of tea, I highly recommend it for a challenge. The writing is sound, and I really like the anime/Saturday Morning Cartoon feel of the game. Each episode/stage begins by showing the episode title and the writer, which also made me think of my childhood in front of the TV. The upgrades to your ship all feel sound, and while I spend more time starting over than I’m willing to admit, for 15 bucks, Galak-Z: The Void: Definitive Edition is definitely a must-purchase for lovers of Roguelikes and outer space. The addition of the PS4’s Arcade Mode is also going to help newcomers to this style of game too. Sure, you’ll still get blown up a lot, but it’s a lot more forgiving. I love the look and feel of this game, and no matter how bad I am at it, I still find myself coming back, and playing a stage or two, and not feeling miserable when I lose. Instead, I slowly get better. That’s the way it should be.