Galak-Z: The Dimensional (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gareth F 14.10.2015

Review for Galak-Z: The Dimensional on PlayStation 4

Fledgling video game developer 17-BIT are only two releases deep, but even at this early stage evidence points towards a mission statement aimed at producing as diverse a catalogue of titles as possible. Having made an impressive debut with Skulls of the Shogun, a turn-based strategy game set in the Samurai afterlife, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to expect the 'difficult' second game to tread a similar path, right? Well, the Seattle based developer clearly had other ideas and chose instead to tap into the rich mine of influences that could only be accumulated from a lifetime of obsessive retro gaming alongside a steady diet of 'straight to TV' sci-fi. Start off with a healthy dollop of 'arcade classic', place in a baking tin while simultaneously stirring in ground up flakes of '16-Bit console', pour on a layer of 'Japanese Anime' and '80s nostalgia', season with a sprinkle of 'Rogue-like' then stick in the oven at a high temperature until the laser overheats. Providing that the recipe has been followed accurately the end result should resemble Galak-Z: The Dimensional.

Galak-Z tells the tale of A-Tak, the last remaining human fighter pilot who, after being cast adrift with blown engines courtesy of Imperial forces ambush, gets picked up on the long range scanners of the USS Axelios. It's left to the one remaining crew member on board, a sprightly female by the name of Beam, to guide the reluctant hero to the relative safety of the base ship, which becomes the central hub. From here, Beam will brief A-Tak on upcoming missions before dutifully sending him back out into the void to fulfil them, with an early sortie involving the rescue of Crash, the aptly named ship mechanic. Having Crash on board provides the means to fit and upgrade A-Tak's ship utilising the wide variety of parts salvaged from supply crates or blueprints found in the void.

Vanquished foes become space junk, which can be collected and used as currency to cover Crash's labour costs ... typical mechanic. Missions tend to involve recovering an item from the void or investigating an occurrence before fighting the way back to the extraction warp gate. If it sounds like the odds are firmly stacked against success ... well they are, but there's more to A-Tak's ship than meets the eye. At the flick of a switch it can transform into a giant mech complete with a laser sword, shield and grappling hook. Those lousy Imperials won't know what hit 'em.

Screenshot for Galak-Z: The Dimensional on PlayStation 4

It should come as no surprise that outer space is a cold, hostile environment with danger at every turn making it the perfect setting for some intense dogfights against surprisingly intelligent enemies. It's not just the plentiful Imperial forces patrolling the airspace but there are Void Raiders in great abundance, scavengers on the lookout for wreckage that wouldn't think twice about opening fire on any ship foolish enough to get in the way. Space Bugs are also a surprising nuisance and tend to crop up in packs, though thankfully there aren't enough of them to constitute a swarm. The enemy's sharp AI can be attributed to something that 17-BIT call Cyntient, a platform designed to create adaptive and reactive foes that are as prone to attacking each other as they are the person playing the game.

There are also environmental hazards to take into consideration from plant-like structures that temporarily disable the shields or slow down movement to creatures that lie in wait on rocks and spring out to grab the less attentive that pass. Canny pilots can take advantage of this and lure the enemy into these hazards or, better yet, make use of the mech's grappling hook to sling enemies directly into them making survival a more viable prospect. A-Tak's ship can withstand a fair bit of environmental damage so collisions against asteroids and cave walls don't prove too problematic, which is a good thing considering that it'll happen ... a lot. Local activity can be picked up on the short-range scanners, indicating potential threats in A-Tak's immediate vicinity with colour coded arrows point in the direction of the nearest enemy craft as well as the current mission objective.

Screenshot for Galak-Z: The Dimensional on PlayStation 4

With heavy strains of aging arcade classics Asteroids and Gradius spliced into its DNA, and a knowing nod to modern updates to the genre from the likes of Pixel Shooter Ultimate and Luftrausers, there's a warm air of familiarity surrounding Galak-Z. Avid TV viewers may also spot references to Battlestar Galactica (the 70s original not the recent re-boot) and Transformers, not to mention the plentiful reverence to numerous other childhood cartoons. The controls are delightfully responsive with a slight tweak of the tank-like Asteroids configuration as A-Tak's ship can zip about or stealthily drift around the void in any direction with consummate ease. Detection can be avoided by cutting the engines whenever there are enemies in the vicinity. Not only are there are handy visual indicators for the distance the ship's noise levels are travelling but also the direction and reach of the enemy's radar. The laws of physics are in full effect here so short boosts of the thrusters should be enough to stealthily glide about space undetected though engine noise reduction is but one of the many factors that can be improved upon, with the right upgrade.

The campaign is divided into five seasons, each split once more into five individual episodes and it is at this point that the Rogue-like elements kick in. Should A-Tak's shields drop during combat, any further hits taken before they get a chance to charge back up sees the loss of a life. Should all lives be depleted, progress from the start of the most current season is lost, which can be pretty harsh but it does encourage a more cautious approach to the missions. Like most games sitting in the Rogue-like family Galak-Z has procedurally generated levels meaning that no two repeated plays of any episode will be alike, so those obsessed with learning the locations of enemies and supply crates will be in for a bit of a rough ride. However, despite the random factor, repetition is hard to avoid given that each episode retains the same dialogue and looks aesthetically similar.

Screenshot for Galak-Z: The Dimensional on PlayStation 4

In terms of presentation, 17-BIT have jumped all over the TV show format as, besides rolling an end credits sequence whenever a season is completed, they've further added to the illusion by giving all of the menus a convincingly accurate VHS quality, complete with chunky fonts and tracking errors. Graphically it finds the perfect balance between old and new, paying homage to its influences while simultaneously employing increased horse power of the PS4, bringing the genre pixel by pixel into the 21st century. There's a deep, omnidirectional parallax effect in play while navigating the void, though on rare occasions there can be a minor impact on performance during a particularly action-heavy sequence but it's never problematic. The cartoony cut scenes are just the right length to set the scene without overstaying their welcome, with animated insets of all the in game dialogue between characters, both friend and foe.

Speaking of which, Galak-Z also has decent voice acting and sound effects underpinned by a synth-heavy, Blade Runner-esque soundtrack to help set the mood, however, the audio does seem oddly flat when playing through a decent surround sound system. Of course this could just be 17-BIT emulating the VHS Nicam Stereo sound that was prevalent in the 80s, which is fair enough, but there is something to be said for a wholesome, beefy video game explosion that has the capacity to make an Adam's apple vibrate.

Screenshot for Galak-Z: The Dimensional on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

If future retro is actually a thing then 17-BIT have hit the mother lode with this vibrant update to the top-down dogfighting genre. With its stylish TV show format, nostalgic childhood references and story led campaign, it's fair to say that Galak-Z: The Dimensional is taking the 2D shooter to new territories. While it does occasionally get repetitive, the solid play mechanics and constantly evolving challenge is just reward for those that persevere with it. Plus (and this can't be stressed enough)... it has a ship that transforms into a giant mech.

Developer

17-Bit

Publisher

17-Bit

Genre

Shooter

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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