Originally published on Pixelitis.net on February 16, 2014.
Roguelikes may be somewhat commonplace as indie game developers continue to grow in numbers, but when’s the last time you saw one that played like a space shoot-em-up? GALAK-Z: The Dimensional looks to fill that void.
Conceived by an eight-man team behind indie developer 17-BIT, GALAK-Z is a PC/PlayStation 4 space shooter that has you in complete control of the physics of your ship in order to dodge asteroids, fire your blasters and shoot homing missiles at enemy combatants. And in the style of most roguelikes, levels are procedurally generated and death is permanent.
The permanent death won’t be so bad if players uncover a bunch of secret weapon upgrade blueprints throughout the game, however. These unlockables can carry over to subsequent playthroughs that will give players new approaches when replaying levels.
While my time with GALAK-Z was brief it also happened to be very intense. Did I succeed?
My homing missiles were used up, my cash for upgrades was spent and my ship’s health was constantly on the brink of being completely depleted, but after being chased by three unrelenting enemy ships and finally overcoming them, I survived.
There was a moody, lonely atmosphere prevalent within the game, which tied into the stealth route that one can take when it comes to sneaking up on other ships and blasting them out of orbit.
The game takes a page out of 80s anime, featuring a cel-shaded anime style and “episodes” that last anywhere between thirty minutes to a full hour. These episodes are comprised of several missions and a boss battle. Bouts of dialogue featuring the visages of the pilot protagonist and enemy combatants will occasionally populate the corners of the screen, adding to that cartoony flourish.
Speaking with 17-BIT’s CEO, Creative Director and Art Director Jake Kazdal at IndieCade East this past weekend, he described the shooter as a mix of “the best of modern games and the best of classic games.”
And as such, the one game that immediately stood out in my mind as I pulled on the DualShock 4’s R2 trigger to initiate the thrusters was Solar Jetman on the NES. Kazdal, who was a Nintendo game counselor in the late 80s and 90s, cites the NES classic as one of his favorite games of all time. That game, in addition to arcade games like Asteroids and Defender that he played at his father’s pizza parlor as a child, contribute substantially to the game’s design.
“I’ve always loved physics-based gameplay,” Kazdal continued. “I liked the Skate series, I loved Wipeout. SSX is not so physics-y, but I love being in charge of your own physics. I love Waverace. I played the hell out of Waverace.”
It’s these games plus the inspiration that the team got from the AI of Far Cry 3 that make GALAK-Z look more stand-out in the shoot-em-up genre than a lot of the others. There’s undoubtedly a learning curve when it comes to the strafing, propulsion and repulsion that maneuvers your ship, but once I grasped that it made for a fun challenge.
Although the game is only a single player affair at the moment, 17-BIT would like to continue working on it post launch, which could mean a chance at multiplayer support and other potential DLC in the future.
The game is currently slated for release on PS4 and Steam sometime in the late summer or fall season this year. While what I played was a PC build, the team will be starting work on the PS4 port this week. When I quizzed him about a potential Vita version of the game, Kazdal simply said “we’ll see.”