Saturday, October 31, 2015

PC Review #132: Galak-Z

Title: Galak-Z
Developer: 17 Bit Games
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux. PS4
Price: $19.99
I had been anticipating Galak-Z for a while. The fluid combat, the bright flashy visuals, mech mode, roguelike elements...all signs pointed towards a fast-paced frenetic dual-stick shooter with screen-filling missile barrages. And Galak-Z definitely has all those things and more, but what I wasn't expecting was a deliberately-paced shooter with a focus on stealth and cautious exploration. It was a welcome surprise.
As ace pilot Atak, you alone must take on the might of the Empire. But while you may be outnumbered, you aren't outmatched; your fighter is an agile weapon, able to strafe and reverse direction with ease. Part of the challenge and fun of Galak-Z is mastering its movement, learning to handle momentum and thrust, how to dodge over bullets and circle around enemies.

Modulating your thrust is crucial, because despite its frenetic appearance, Galak-Z actually has a large focus on stealth. Reminiscent of Mark of the Ninja, enemy light of sight is visually represented on screen, and the sound of engines displayed as a circle around your ship. Enemies will investigate suspicious sounds, become alerted if they catch a glimpse of you. You only have a few health and shield points, and enemies attack relentlessly, so hiding and flanking and attacking when you have the advantage is key to surviving.
But when combat does finally erupt, it does so in a spectacle of swooping missiles, colorful explosions, flaring thrusters and neon bullets. Galak-Z certainly doesn't disappoint in the action department. Weaving between lasers, unleashing a flurry of missiles, then boosting out of sight to flank your enemies is always satisfying. Mods and blueprints found through each stage can upgrade your ship with extensive array of bullet types, shot speed and range, and enhancements like immunity to lava.

Sometimes your arsenal isn't enough and Galak-Z features emergent gameplay elements that allow for more strategic depth. Enemy factions fight each other, so leading a fleet of Empire ships into a nest of space bugs is always a viable tactic. The environments are filled with hazards that can be used against enemies, from lava pools and drifting debris to alien growths that unleash shield-draining spores. Choosing where you fight can be just as important as how you fight.

But no element is Galak-Z is as stylish as its seamless mech transformations, At the press of a button, your ship shifts into a sword and shield-wielding robot that can slash through a squadron, or grapple an enemy and fling it into an asteroid. Fluidly switching between ship and mech mode, along with stealth and environmental hazards and your arsenal, lets you turn the tides against the game's challenging enemies and bosses.
The PC version of Galak-Z features a new Arcade mode, to complement its original roguelike structure. The threat of permadeath looms over every encounter in Galak-Z, but Arcade mode lets you save your progress and restart stages without losing all your upgrades.

Galak-Z is available on Steam, as well as PS4


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