Galak-Z, from developer 17-bit, released last week on PSN. It’s a sci-fi shooter that pays homage to old-school anime like Macross and the early Gundam series, with obvious nods to the art style that makes those mech-infused anime stand out from the rest. It’s also a remarkably difficult, yet satisfying action game that owes much to the “roguelike” genre. I can say without a doubt that you’ve not played a game quite like Galak-Z, which makes a pretty compelling case as to why you should already be playing it.
In Galak-Z you pilot a small spacecraft across procedurally generated stages. The general story is present as a TV show, so worlds = seasons, while levels = episodes. Each season contains five or so episodes, the plot of which will differ with each playthrough. Generally you’re tasked with locating a number of objects or materials spread across a grid like map, filled with asteroids, aliens, enemy ships, and various power-ups. Defeated foes drop salvage, used for upgrades on your ship between episodes. These are comprised of weapon upgrades, temporary bonuses to health and shields, speed boosts and so on.
The challenge of Galak-Z comes from the general vulnerability of your ship, and the fact that you need to complete a season without losing a life in order to proceed to the next. Episodes are relatively short, but are usually packed with enemies, which can differ in power even early on. It’s not unusual to get midway through a season, die, and then come back to a completely different layout both in stage design and enemy placement.
The randomness helps you to rely strictly on mastering the unique control scheme, which admittedly takes a while to get used to. But once you’re able to master the momentum based movement, which includes forward and backward thrust, boost, braking, and a lot of circular motions with strafing, you’ll start to feel like a real pro at Galak-Z. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as taking down larger class enemy ships while deftly avoiding a barrage of enemy fire, and coming out of that encounter unscathed due to your superior reflexes and agility.
The engaging combat and unique controls are married with a solid visual design that does an amicable job of mimicking a mid-80’s anime aesthetic. The talking face portraits, along with shots of character art, and pop-out colorful ship design combine to make a pretty memorable look for Galak-Z. Also, the soundtrack helps wrap the entire package in a neat little bow, with a synthwave pop that’s reminiscent of artists like Perturbator and Kavinsky. The entire presentation of Galak-Z is top-notch, and outside of some framerate issues when multiple ships enter the fray, it’s pretty clear that everything is well-designed.
All in all, I think Galak-Z was definitely worth the wait. It’s one of the most unique titles I’ve played on my PS4 this year, and certainly one of the most challenging. It’s a game that will take a while to feel particularly skilled at playing, but this is not an experience that allows for frustration to creep in. Instead you’ll be driven to improve while being entertained by all the things that Galak-Z does right. So definitely don’t sleep on Galak-Z, you won’t be disappointed.