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You’re going to die a lot in Galak-Z: The Dimensional. Developer 17-BIT are so aware of this, they’ve made it a selling point of the game. It’s definitely something to get used to. Not only the dying, but the progress you lose because of death.
In the end, it’s worth it — Galak-Z is really, really fun.
Here are my thoughts on Galak-Z after having played for two and a half hours.
Galak-Z is sort of like your father. After 21 years, you think you got the guy pegged, but then he gets uncharacteristically schwasted and tells you about the time he got banned from Canada while partying with AC/DC. “Maybe we murdered a moose,” he says with a wink, despite the fact that moose murder isn’t really something to wink over. You thought you knew this man through and through, but you were wrong…
Similarly, it’s easy to assume you know Galak-Z through and through before you play it. It’s just another sci-fi space shooter, how different can it be from the likes of Galaga and Ikaruga? Maybe it takes some inspiration from the 3rd person Zone of the Enders — but how many surprises can you really expect from it?
Quite a few, actually.
For one, it’s about more than just flying around in space and shooting things. The game requires the same reflexive skills you’ll have gained from previous shooters, but those skills are second to your ability to strategize. If you do nothing but rush into every fight, the game will be really frustrating. Sometimes, you gotta run. Sometimes, in an almost Metal Gear Solid sorta way, you gotta sneak around. Sometimes, you’ll lead one set of enemies into a second set, letting them duke it out with each other — there are multiple factions in the game and it’s pretty fun to turn them against each other in battle. Sometimes, when you have to fight, you’ll find more unconventional means of killing your foes; shooting space lava into their faces and waiting for monsters hiding inside of asteroids to eat them, for example.
The ability to do all of this is placed at the player’s feet. The controls, as intuitive as they are, aren’t something you instantly pick up in any sort of advanced way. Space often leaves you hurdling in one direction or the next, you have to juggle your ability to juke around rockets and speed past enemies, all while attempting to shoot at something! Anything! When you accidentally press reverse when you meant to juke, dying horrifically in the process, you will feel very frustrated. But no matter how much the anger from dying clouds your thoughts, you will know when thing: it was your fault you died.
This thought is what will keep you playing. The drive to become a better fictional-anime-space pilot is the reason to play this game.
Thankfully, 17-BIT have done everything to accommodate this with their level designs. When you die, you don’t find yourself doing the exact same thing you just wasted your time on. The maps seem to have some level of randomization to their design (in 17-BIT’s words, it’s “rogue-like” with procedurally assembled level elements). There are rotating objectives, random maps designs and what appear to be somewhat random enemy spawn points. So even when you load up level 1-1, you can never be 100% certain you know what you’re going to get.
With all of this said, all the randomness and murderous drive in the world won’t make this a game for everyone. If you don’t want to put up with the kind of skill-building involved with games like the Dark Souls series, if the idea of dying a lot to get better at a game sounds the opposite of relaxing, then you might not enjoy Galak-Z.
I haven’t beaten Galak-Z yet, I’ve only played the first season, but I’m very excited about killing some more space bugs. Currently, Galak-Z is out for PS4 with a forthcoming PC release sometime soon.
This post is dedicated to Roy Focker, a true hero.
Read more of CBS Chicago’s video game reviews here.