Oh my God. Oh my HYPOTHETICAL GOD. This game has caused a great conflict in me. On the one hand, I want to applaud its art-style and fluid gameplay. On the other hand, I want to bash my head against the wall at the ridiculous difficulty spike in Season 2. Just to get you up to speed, Galak Z (Galak-Z doesn’t play well with SEO, but is the proper name) is a 2D shoot ’em up / adventure / rogue-lite game set in space, wherein you undertake missions that send you out in to space to salvage junk for upgrades and advance the story. It’s infuriating yet addictive, and all will be covered in my Galak Z Review.
*Full disclosure: I literally could not complete this game. I tried for HOURS to get passed Season 2 Level 3. Perhaps there’s a reviewer out there that has. A legend without question. I, however, failed miserably, so bare that in mind as you read my thoughts.
Look and Feel
Galak Z impressed me from the very beginning with its visuals. It has a colourful 2D comic art style that gives presence to the emptiness of space. It’s like the evolution of Parappa the Rapper’s design inside of a futuristic version of Asteroids. Your ship becomes endearing from the start, and I became quite attached based simply on a short opening cut scene.
Visually, the characters seem inspired by the classic anime / comic protagonists. They’re fine to look at, also in 2D, but there’s nothing special about them in my opinion. They’re fine. Their voice acting, on the other hand, is very good. The banter between Atak (your player character) and Beam (the person feeding you intelligence for your missions) makes for a pleasant bookend to the missions.
The sound design is good too, but it’s nothing to write home about. The shooting of lasers sounds as you would expect and the swish of a laser sword is satisfying.
I’ve encountered a performance hiccup from time to time, frequently in fact, wherein the screen will freeze for a moment. This usually happens when you’re engaged in a fire fight with an enemy ship. I can’t pin-point the reason, but it’s a problem given that this game has been out for a while. I’ve searched around and it seems to be a well-known issue.
It can get chaotic when you get surrounded by enemies and there are lasers all over the place like a decent rave. This resulted in many a death, but I think I’d rather have that than have the game tell me it can’t render that many enemies.
Overall, it’s a treat to the eyes and ears for the most part but it has that one irksome performance issue that’s too frequent to be ignored.
The crux of Galak Z’s experience, the gameplay consists of shooting enemies from the comfort of your own ship as you complete missions to progress through the game’s plot. Using the salvage from those kills, you can purchase any upgrades you’ve found whilst exploring the areas on your missions. You’ll encounter various factions, from the Imperial ships, Bandits and Alien threats that all behave differently and have different classes within their own ranks. You can also attempt to stealth past the enemies if you think you can’t handle them, or to draw other enemies in to each other and watch them fight for supremacy whilst you slink off unnoticed.
You’re equipped with a basic laser, shields and health to begin with. Your shields regenerate but health does not, even after the mission ends. This makes it especially difficult and stresses the importance of skillful execution as you have to finish 5 missions in a row to complete a “Season” or be forced to try again from the first mission. Die on mission 5? Welcome back to mission 1!
Speaking of Seasons and Missions, the game is broken up in to 5 seasons, each of which seem to contain 5 levels. Think of Mario-esque worlds of 1-1, 1-2, 1-3 etc. It’s a simple but effective structure. The objectives in these missions have a limited amount of differentiation after you die, so mission 1-1 won’t be the same as last time. It keeps you on your toes.
Regardless of how you choose to approach the game, you’re often forced in to a fire-fight, and gaining salvage is almost entirely dependent on it (outside of the occasional supply drop). This is fine, as the fights are fun, but some enemies – particularly the bandits – are extremely tough, especially in numbers, and this can become incredibly frustrating when they’re gathered around the exit warp gate that demands you give it a moment to charge. I’ve been killed many a time at a near-completion point and it can definitely turn you off from the game. It’s often better to sneak past enemies, as they can detect loud noises and have a cone field-of-vision display, indicating when they’ll be able to spot you. Certain enemies are best left alone even when fully upgraded.
The most frustrating aspect of the game has to be the loss of your upgrades upon your death. Being thrown back to the start of your five level run is a nuisance, sure, but not having your improved boosters or customised laser blasts with a poisonous coat of paint to fend off aliens just pours a whole heap of salt in the wound. I feel like allowing the upgrades to be kept for the duration of the season would result in more people progressing further through the game.
Above all that though, the game is so very smooth. It’s a joy to play outside of the intense difficulty. Movement using the thrusters and boosters is simple and factors heavily in to battles as you’ll rarely want to stay still. For me, exploring the areas and gathering blueprints and upgrades became the most enjoyable aspect of the game, and playing it in a stealth-like fashion was fun up until getting ambushed at the exit. It renders your stealth efforts meaningless and I wish they’d reward that play-style a little more.
Galak Z’s difficulty seems to be a source of its pride, but I also feel its why there aren’t many YouTube series beyond Season 2. Some options to scale that difficulty would do wonders to invite more to play because, in my opinion, it’s the wrong kind of tough.
The amount of story I could obtain from my limited run seemed interesting enough. You’re the last surviving member of your fleet, having been ambushed by the Empire’s army, and for some reason, you accidentally chose a special spaceship to escape in. This leads to Beam inviting you aboard the Axelios command ship to assist in rebuilding the resistance.
I wish I could have given you the whole experience, but I couldn’t even find a summary on YouTube. This game is SHOCKINGLY hard. I will never know the rest of the tale.
Galak Z is simple game on the surface but it gets deep quickly, forcing you to use all of the tools at your disposal to deal with even the most minute of enemies. It’s genuinely enjoyable to play until you’re getting mauled by a heap of enemy ships with no escape in sight, and you know you’re going to lose everything you’ve earned as well as be thrown back to the start of your season. On my literal 40th (ish) death, I finally submitted to this unforgiving nightmare of a game. I’d recommend it, yes, but it’s not for the faint of heart and can border on the unfair at times.
Game: Galak Z
Review Format: Playstation 4