There's a distinct vulnerability at the heart of Galak-Z, a top-down space shooter that plays like a sped-up version of Asteroids on psychedelic drugs. Galak-Z marries the style of '80s anime cartoons with a panache of vibrant explosives and deft enemy AI as you pilot a slip-slidey ship through hostile space environs.
Everything wants to kill you in Galak-Z. Like the space bugs hiding in remote corridors of massive asteroids, the clusters of imperial ships often out-numbering your lone starfighter or even the environment itself, which constantly throws a cavalcade of comets and debris at you while you hunt down objectives. Death is ever-looming in Galak-Z, presenting such a palpable and pleasurable tension and sense of dread to each moment that even in a crowded and loud booth at PAX Prime, I had tuned out everything around me and found myself lost in it all.
Flying through space is a fairly simple prospect on paper, and it only took 15 minutes before I was able to pull off complex jukes and strafing patterns with my nimble starship. Both forward and reverse thrusters, along with boosters, make navigation a fairly straight-forward affair, though mastering the ship's inertia in space flight is a more complex mechanic to master. Skillful use of inertia ultimately separates the hopes of humanity from future stains on a distant space rock.
Enemy AI is quite advanced in Galak-Z. Imperial ships will double-team, flank, flee when they've lost shields only to return moments later in full force and employ numerous other tactics. The space bugs, on the other hand, will mindlessly chase anything in their view – a valuable piece of knowledge when taking a detour prior to engaging the next cluster of imperial ships. An encounter tips in your favor when you come barreling into the fight with a few big nasties on your six. I literally giggled when I lured some space bugs into an imperial squadron for the first time.
Galak-Z is an entirely different departure from the tactical gameplay of 17-Bit's previous outing, Skulls of the Shogun – a turn-based strategy game where you plan out every move. Galak-Z is on the opposite side of the spectrum, an experience that's more about feeling and reacting in the moment – and I absolutely loved it.
Galak-Z is due sometime in 2014 for the PS4 and PC. It's currently being demoed at PAX Prime over in the Indie Megabooth all this weekend. If you're at the show, go play it.