Developer 17-bit’s Galak -Z: The Dimensional is a 2D shooter that presents itself as a homage to 80s space opera anime on the surface, but opens up to become a lot more as you play on. The PS4 version reviewed offers us a throwback to classics like Asteroids but elevates the action by adding stealth and RPG elements. You control a transforming star fighter which can shoot lasers and missiles, strafe and grab objects to throw at enemies or provide an up-close beating.
Galak-Z’s hand painted art style is colorful in the effects department, though environments tend to look dull after a while. The open sections provide you with great mobility and freedom to master your space craft’s movement, and to skillfully dance around enemies. The more confined areas offer stealth play, and you can even ambush enemies or lead them into conflict with area defenses while you sit back and watch the chaos unfold. However, don’t expect the AI to fall for it every time. Galak-Z uses a specialized AI called Cyntient which allows enemies to study your movement and respond intelligently. Areas in the game are also procedurally generated but can become repetitive overtime as the objectives boil down to similar scenarios.
The shining accolade of Galak-Z is its gameplay. The responsive and tight controls allow you to move and aim with adequate independence of each other thanks to Newtonian physics making for some intense dog fighting action. You can also purchase upgrades to either make your craft more defensive or offensive. Though, if the odds are stacked against you, you can pull out your ship’s secret weapon. With the press of a button, your ship can transform into a laser sword-wielding mech. This gives you the ability to slash, bash and throw enemies. The emphasis shifts from firepower and mobility to direct engagement.
The narrative is bare bones and revolves around your character A-Tak, the pilot of an experimental space craft that is the last line of defense for humanity. This means you always have the odds stacked against you and the game does a wonderful job of reminding you of that fact. With its intentionally unforgiving save system coupled with smart AI, Galak-Z can be a brutally challenging experience. Failure has the potential to leave you in tears, though, on the other hand, success will often be rewarding and make you jump with joy. Galak-Z encourages exploration with hidden upgrades but also rewards those who form an understanding of the environment with a tactical edge. Going in guns blazing is brusque compared to the strategic finesse the game expects you to utilize.
Owners of the console who are also fans of shoot-em-ups owe it to themselves to try it out. PC gamers shouldn’t feel left out, as they’ll also be able to get in on the action later this year.
Galak-Z: The Dimensional Review (PS4)
Galak-Z makes a fine addition to the indie library of the PS4, showing that old arcade gaming paradigms can be revitalized with fresh mechanics and a modern retro feel.