It's safe to say that Galak-Z: The Dimensional is a game of charm and personality. Everything from the retro Asteroids-style gameplay to the 80s cartoon style just screams charisma, making it possibly one of the most loveable games of this generation so far.
Let's start with the basics: you play as A-Tak, space pilot extraordinaire and the last surviving member of your squadron. You soon meet up with Beam, the remaining crew member of the USS Axelios, a ship that's starting to run out of air and supplies.
Right from the off, it's clear to see how well-done the physics engine is – all of the principles of space apply here, and flying your little starfighter feels like a dream. The controls are perfectly weighted and the laws of propulsion and speed all feel realistic; if you boost and stop, you'll drift a lot further than if you simply propel yourself. The way that the asteroids float about, the way that your ship slides about as you propel it around the level – it's all so satisfying.
And the levels are designed really well – they feel so open. Sure, you could cut to the chase and simply boost through them, completing the objectives and moving onto the next, but that just feels wrong – the sandboxes are crafted with such quality that it feels a waste to not just marvel at them and stop to smell the roses. This game being a roguelike, there are plenty of secrets to collect in order to upgrade your ship, but it's also nice to simply drift about aimlessly and marvel at your surroundings.
Still, we're pretty sure that most of you will agree that it's equally nice to blow stuff up like the bully at the beach stomping on everyone's sandcastles, and that's what Galak-Z has in spades. The main currency is Salvage, which you can collect by shooting up space debris, asteroids, and enemy ships. This can be used to buy upgrades and replenish your ship's supplies from Crash – not that one – the local gunsmith, which presents a variety of options to blow more stuff up and earn even more Salvage, like a circle of scavenging. You can also collect Crash Coins, which are hidden in each mission, and these can be traded for a hefty sum of Salvage.
The combat isn't just the "point there, shoot there" that you'd normally expect – it's surprisingly tactical, and very physics-driven. As you drive your ship, a faint blue circle appears that shows how loud you are, while the enemies have vision cones that show what area they're surveying. Using these two indicators, you've got a wealth of options for taking down enemies: you could pick them off one by one, launch a surprise attack, or simply ghost right past them.
Or, you could go in all guns blazing, which we much prefer.
There are also a number of different weapons to use; while there are the normal phasers and lasers, you've also got the option of missiles, which are limited in supply and need time to lock on, but are one-hit kills, perfect for ambushes. A big problem with rockets is that they caused some severe framerate drops for us, which really need to be patched; this issue was responsible for a lot of deaths in our playthrough, which really detracted from the experience, considering that this game is permadeath.
The way that you progress is simple, but pretty challenging – you've got to complete five missions in a row, with only one life. If you die at any point, the season – and your progress, but not your upgrades – reset. This can be a bit frustrating at the start, but eventually we got used to it. This is why tactical combat is so important in Galak-Z: going in all guns blazing is very risky, so the best option is to use the physics and your arsenal to your advantage and create a plan of attack. This is where the game truly shines; where you'll snap your fingers and say, "I get it now!"
But that's not even the coolest part. Just you wait until later in the game when you have the option to go into Mech Mode. This is where the release goes full Gundam, as you can transform your ship to mech and back to ship again in seconds. The Mech is a more offensive option for taking down enemies, with its sword attacks and throwing abilities, but it can also use its shield for deflecting attacks back at foes.
This quick switching allows you to create some truly awesome moments: at one point, we used the ship's missiles to weaken some opponents and then used the Juke ability to fly over them, before switching to Mech mode and devastating them with a sword attack. The combat just feels so open and personal, it's no wonder that we lost so many hours to it.
This experience is aided by the half-cyberpunk half-retro soundtrack, which is catchy and perfectly suits the combat, pumping you up for the battles. This is the main source of the game's charisma, but it's all the small things that make Galak-Z so appealing and fun: the way that A-Tak flinches as you fire your lasers, the way that the pause screen is set up like an 80s VHS tape, the way that the characters are complete stereotypes, yet so appealing – the cool fighter ace, the smart mission controller, the brutish weapons specialist.
It's also about how the game looks, too: the characters are all designed to resemble Saturday morning cartoon characters, the ships are slightly cel-shaded with bright colours that stand out, the lasers are striking and bold – it all adds up to make a game with plenty of personality.
With perfectly weighted physics that feel nice on the thumbs, tactical combat that allows you to deal with any situation in a number of ways, and a soundtrack that's catchy and euphoric, Galak-Z is one helluva ride. Though the framerate can detract from the experience at times, it makes up for its one notable shortcoming with charm, nostalgia, and by bombarding you with joy.