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Galak-Z: The Dimensional (PlayStation 4) artwork

Galak-Z: The Dimensional (PlayStation 4) review

"Galak-Z manifests a devastating combination: it’s equal parts roguelike and relentlessly generic. "

I was hellbent on falling in love with Galak-Z: The Dimensional. I have an unhealthy love for the sort of 80s anime series that obviously inspired the game’s creators - Robotech: The Macross Saga, chief among them. And there’s never been a definitive Macross gaming experience. There was a very good shoot-em-up called Macross 2036 on the now ancient Turbo Duo (full marks if you knew that the Duo isn’t a car part), but that game was a conventional (not multi-directional) shmup – a blast to be sure, but one that didn’t genuinely capture the Robotech experience.

Galak-Z tries very hard to do just that. Miraculously, it succeeds in the area that might just be most important. Indeed, the weight you place on that achievement will surely determine how invested you become – and if you’ve peeked at my score, you already know it wasn’t enough for me. The achievement I speak of? Dogfighting. Galak-Z handles its plane-cum-robot combat mechanics wonderfully. And yet, from my humble ‘casual’ gamer vantage point, the game still manages to fail as an enjoyable gaming experience, and I’d wager that it might for all but the most hardcore of players.

And that’s because Galak-Z manifests a devastating combination: it’s equal parts roguelike and relentlessly generic. The procedural generation part of the roguelike equation is the good part; knowing that each time you engage a season – as the areas are called here – the missions therein will be slightly different: objectives, enemy placement, etc. The trouble, predictably, is with the permanent death part, and how that conspires with the remarkably unremarkable missions. You’ll fulfill rote objectives to proceed mission-by-mission through a given season against the least awe-inspiring and most rudimentary of deep space backdrops you can think of, unhappy in the knowledge that should you die, you’ll lose everything and have to do it all again.

If I’m trying to see the bright side, permadeaths make you play more carefully and in some ways ramp up the intensity, given what’s at stake. And you absolutely will be taken by how well your ship controls. From thrusting forward and backward and managing the ensuing momentum, to strafing, juking, circling and boosting - it’s all handled in the most intuitive of fashions. Taking on enemy mecha, has never felt more authentic. This is Gundam, and this is Macross.

You can detect an enemy patrol from afar and choose to cruise past them, undetected, or you can sneak up on them, engage your missile lock-on and unleash a barrage of twisting, streaking missiles before mashing the reverse thrusters and backing the hell out of there lest the remaining enemies get their shit together and give chase. You might purposely allow one of their ships to catch up to you, so that you can bait him, matador style, into any number or environmental hazards – which, contrary to most shooters – actually kill hero and bad guy alike.

Dictating how you engage with enemies and performing in those engagements – that’s what Galak-Z gets right. The quality of the engagements themselves is what is sorely lacking. The mechanics are befitting of a much grander arena: There are not enough unique and memorable environs within which to ply your trade, nor are there enough unique and memorable enemy encounters for the coolness of the dogfighting to shine through. It will stop mattering what you’re capable of when you have to do it with comparatively little fanfare.

Again, when mixed with permadeaths, the result is a most unsavory stew: frequent restarts leading to an ultimately fun-crushing level of repetition of already boring levels. The only real excitement is created by stress brought on by the threat of death and having to start over. You sweat because you don’t want to have to do any of what you’re already doing again. And that shouldn’t be the main reason your heart is pumping in a shooter.


Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (September 15, 2015)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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honestgamer posted September 15, 2015:

Great review! I loved your discussion at the end. I always find myself reaching for a different game if I realize I'm playing one where most of the thrill comes from the hope that I will finally conquer a given area and never have to face it again. That truly is the wrong sort of incentive to rely upon. A good game will delight me because I can't wait to see what happens next, and perhaps because I look forward to another trip through it.
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Masters posted September 15, 2015:

Thanks, Jason. I really wanted to like this game, but meh.

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