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Super Galaxy Squadron (PC) artwork

Super Galaxy Squadron (PC) review

"Some Shades of Super."

Super Galaxy Squadron looks like it could have been lifted right from a 1980ís arcade cabinet, with its chunky pixel graphics, rocking chip tunes and idyllic love of scrolling vertically while blowing stuff up. That could have been enough to make a lot of genre fans happy, but it then goes further in its attempt to rope in a discontented niche audience still arguing back and forth over the worth of Under Defeat (to hell with you, Marc; itís awesome!) by offering fourteen unique crafts to select. Each comes with largely different styles to master, and some even leach skillsets directly from your favourite shooters of yore.

Itís a lot of fun to blast through the relatively short six stages with differing craft, and to try to pick out a favourite. An auto-save function records your progress at the end of each level, and that mechanic might irk the odd purist, but is a wonderful way to eliminate the aggravating grind. Maybe you love grind, and thatís cool too; you can just turn on the ridiculous hardcore mode, where the Euro-shooter style shield mechanic that lets you absorb a generous amount of abuse before exploding is scrapped and a single bullet graze sends you to the Game Over screen.

Iíll stick with the shield, myself. Super Galaxy Squadron isnít quite a "bullet hell" shooter, but it certainly isn't shy about flooding the screen with projectiles and asking you to plot incredibly tight courses through lasers and plasma shells. When you're armed with your shield, however, the game is quite forgiving. It offers plentiful power-ups that float serenely from the exploding husks of defeated enemy craft, including health replenishers. Other power-ups upgrade existing systems rather than offering new avenues of attack, presenting you with a higher spread or rate of fire and a gradual dialing up of secondary weapons such as homing missiles. Get hit, however, and one of these perks will be ejected from your craft and float mischievously into space, very probably into enemy fire. This leaves you with the choice to either conserve your shields and sacrifice a slice of your arsenal, or to chase the bugger down and risk taking even more hits, thereby reducing your shield and leaking further power-ups.

Itís an interesting and rarely-explored dynamic that helps keep things lively during the first five missions, which hew a little too close to the overly easy side. With bountiful health boosts available, thereís little punishment for suffering a few hits and chasing your jettisoned icons about the screen for a while. The problem with that perceived ease, combined with a series of backdrops that barely distinguish themselves from each other, is that these stages all kind of meld into one. No environment really stands out from the next. Itís only when you hit the sixth and final level that the difficulty suddenly spikes, and thatís only in the form of a two-staged final boss; anyone with a passing familiarity with the genre will have been fed with so many power-ups by that point that the small army of attack craft you battle on the way to the finale should pose little threat.

This means that Endless mode is a bit of a boon. In it, youíre faced with endless waves of incoming ships that slowly steeple in difficulty and quantity and only ever let up after youíve died. Itís almost broken in how ridiculously crowded with ships and bullets the screen can become if you hold out long enough, and thatís what makes it so brilliant. It also offers the perfect opportunity to pick a random, untried ship for and wage a war youíve exactly zero chance of winning, just to see if your new attack craft gels with you.

Super Galaxy Squadron can feel a little bit like a diet scrolling shooter, thanks to the auto-saves, the massive shield allowance and the gratuitous waves of damage a well-stocked arsenal can cause, but that doesnít have to be a bad thing. Very few entries in the genre can be played in bite-sized chunks the way this one can, though the huge gulf in challenges does hurt it in the end. These things do conspire to create an easy game and, if you're hankering for further challenge, you've only Hardcore mode to turn to for relief. And you'll never beat that. Let's not pretend otherwise.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (June 29, 2015)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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