Review

Galak-Z: The Dimensional Review

  • First Released Aug 4, 2015
    released
  • PS4
Mike Mahardy on Google+

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

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Galak-Z: The Dimensional is deceptive. Despite its appearance as a simple 2D arcade shooter, complete with neon lasers and frantic firefights, there's something more beneath the surface. This is a game of technique and patience, risk and reward, and it requires just as much forethought as it does split-second timing. It's more of a calculated boxing match than a haphazard shootout. Simply put, Galak-Z is a constant learning experience, and overcoming its difficulties requires mastery of its nuanced systems.

Galak-Z is inspired by anime, and structured like it as well. At release, there are four seasons, each serving as acts in this sci-fi story. You play as A-Tak, a pilot sent drifting into the far reaches of space after a disastrous battle with the powerful Imperial army. In order to progress, you need to complete procedurally generated missions, which function like episodes in the traditional TV sense. By completing five episodes in a row, you unlock a permanent new season, with its own randomized corridors and asteroid fields to explore.

Dogfights are frantic, to say the least.
Dogfights are frantic, to say the least.

But if you die, you lose your progress, and return to the beginning of your current season. And during my 20 hours with Galak-Z, I died frequently--close to 30 times. This is a brutal, punishing game, and defeat is all the more heartbreaking because it means losing every upgrade to your ship. These augmentations affect an array of abilities. During my most recent playthrough--after I had already beaten the final season--I accrued a spread pattern for my lasers, increased shield capacity, flaming missiles, and a chance to freeze enemies. And I still died.

Being surrounded is not uncommon.
Being surrounded is not uncommon.

But developer 17-Bit has created a system that lends meaning to your deaths, and creates a layer of strategy that Galak-Z's arcade-y aesthetic belies. Crash Coins are collectible currency that carry over from playthrough to playthrough, and collecting them means beginning a season with money already in your pocket. By finding Blueprints--permanent item unlocks for the shop--you can ensure that powerful weapons will be available to purchase at the outset, and you won't have to venture into dangerous corridors to find them.

Before each dogfight, you can consider your options by hiding behind a wall, out off enemies' sight lines. Based on the number of missiles you have left, the status of your health, and the rank of your enemies--which is indicated by colored stripes on their hulls-- you can plan out your approach. Environmental hazards, such as exploding barrels and live-wire electrical connections, pose even more threats to foes. In the end, though, you can just as soon choose to avoid a fight altogether. There are numerous layers to every fight.

This is where prior planning and strategizing come into play. Each mission poses a set of questions: should you explore, or should you focus on the objective? Should you search for combat upgrades or stick to the beaten path?

Answering these questions is never easy, but there are myriad ways to do so. Galak-Z's physics engine is all about actions and reactions, and learning the best ways to thrust the ship through abandoned space vessels is tantamount to mastering the combat system. The ship can strafe, reverse thrust, and even dodge above lasers--that is, toward the camera--so there's an added sense of verticality to hectic battles. You can also transform the ship into a mech, complete with grappling hook and lightsaber-esque blade, gaining the advantage in close-quarters battles. There are layers to every encounter, and Galak-Z demands that you pay attention to each situation--not only to what's around every corner, but where you stand in the overarching picture.

Exploring abandoned space hulks will unlock permanent items in Crash's shop.
Exploring abandoned space hulks will unlock permanent items in Crash's shop.

During one playthrough, midway through Season 3, when my health was critical and my missiles depleted, pirate raiders pursued me through the asteroid's interior. Ahead of me, Imperial scouts patrolled the hallways, and farther past them, wild space bugs protected their young. My options were running out, and I knew I didn't stand a chance.

But by boosting through the squad of Imperials and into the bugs' lair, I pitted all three factions against one another in a frantic three-way dogfight. This freed me to search for last-minute Crash Coins and Blueprints to help on my next playthrough. Failing in Galak-Z is not just about admitting defeat, but accepting it, and making the most of it.

By the end of successful runs, the fighter can have any number of upgrade combos.
By the end of successful runs, the fighter can have any number of upgrade combos.

However, the learning curve here is steep, and its initial complexity created a slog through some of Galak-Z's more difficult encounters. It took me a while before I wasn't feeling overwhelmed by large enemy groups. Trying to dodge and fire missiles at the same time was particularly difficult, as they're mapped to the square and circle buttons, respectively, and it took excessive amounts of practice to master the ship's strafing ability.

But in the end, Galak-Z is about learning as you go, and making the best of what you have. It's a layered, complex system, and even now, 20 hours after I started it, there are upgrades I haven't found, techniques I haven't practiced, and possibilities I haven't considered. Galak-Z pummelled me, knocked me to the ground and kicked me when I was down. But when I finally got the upper hand, and beat the final season with only a sliver of health left, the victory was all the more rewarding.

Mike Mahardy on Google+
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The Good
A complex, nuanced approach to movement, combat and strategy
A risk/reward system creates tense moments throughout every playthrough
A plethora of upgrades create new ways to consider dogfights
Failure is always a learning experience
The Bad
Rare stutters during larger explosions
Controls have the tendency to feel overly complex before the learning curve is mounted
8
Great
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About the Author

Mike Mahardy died a lot during Galak-Z: The Dimensional. He's now terrified of space pirates.
20 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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getyeryayasout

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I've been enjoying Galak-Z since launch, the stutters and framerate seem to have been addressed in two patches since then. Fantastic, challenging game.

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mr_indiff

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The title font reminded me of Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. Man, I like that series -- especially the first one!

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Killerious

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So unfortunate, I just wonder how this game would look if it has living people in there. Such a waste.

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PsyonicPlague

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an 8? clearly a paid review, anyone with eyes can see this is an 8.5

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Doozie78

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Edited By Doozie78

@PsyonicPlague said:

an 8? clearly a paid review, anyone with eyes can see this is an 8.5

Wait, someone paid them to rate a game low? Maybe the guy just thought, "Hey this game is good but not 9 good.".

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p1p3dream

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I think the reviewer was really remiss in not even mentioning the soundtrack to this game, which is really great.

It's like a mix of Vangelis and John Carpenter. Very cool.

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Kratier

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yeah big performance issues, runs like shit when action starts going

good game otherwise, its sort of like an asteroids version of rogue legacy

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Dragnix

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I believe you are horribly misrepresenting the performance problems regarding the stuttering. I'm reviewing it for my Youtube channel, and once you get to season 2 and have multiple large enemies packed into smaller locations, "rare" stuttering becomes "it's going to happen to you" stuttering. Like every run that I'm having on season two is having stuttering to the point of a freeze frame being shown. This kills the momentum of combat SEVERLY. To the point where it's caused deaths.

They put out a performance patch the day before the launch, but it only helped slightly. It's a critical fix that they need to address.

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p1p3dream

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@dragnix: My game stutters as soon as two or more enemies enter the screen..

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Dragnix

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@p1p3dream: After doing testing, I can recreate a specific freezing issue that has to do with their collision detection. When handling certain enemies in the game, I found the best way of dealing with them is to well, ram them. But if you get them against a wall, and drive at them, it's like the game is trying to figure out where to go with it. Like you're driving them into the wall, and they can't actually go into the wall, so it's trying desperately to figure out what happened.

Look, there's a core game that's reasonable here, but I want to make sure that people know that even with the performance patch, I'm seeing reasonable problems even beyond what I mentioned above. In a game about action: this is killer in my book.

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p1p3dream

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Edited By p1p3dream

@dragnix: It really is curious that a game like this is having performance issues on a modern computer system. I mean we've seen bullet shooters much more complex than this in modern gaming without as much stuttering, so what you say seems to make sense: there is something going on with the AI that is taxing the CPU heavily. As we know, intelligent AI is very much linked to processing power.

With that reasoning, I don't think there would be much they could do to increase the performance without stripping out the AI modules, and scripting their own custom AI.

Edit: its gotta be that AI, because you can have a ton of asteroids and other things on screen which doesnt seem to have any effect on framerate.

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Dragnix

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@p1p3dream: I'd love to be able to really mess around with things from a software engineer perspective to really attempt to pinpoint it, like spawn in asteroids to pin me against a wall and see what happens. I will say that the AI definitely could be a part of it, but my money is actually lying with the physics engine with the collision detection. I think the combination of the gravity mechanic and the sorta "floating" element that can happen along wiht the gameplay could be the core cause in the end.

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p1p3dream

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@dragnix: Gotcha- Well, I am no software engineer, I'm just a gamer who is old and has played a lot of video games. And I know that procedural elements take more processing power than pre-rendered elements. Everything I've read about the game has played up the "complex AI" - which honestly, I think they could have scripted the enemy behavior themselves just fine, the behavior isn't that complex, and it would be much more optimized for their game.

But what you're saying makes a lot of sense now that I think about it. Physics takes lots of realtime computing.

It's too bad, because the game is really cool concept wise.

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TrueProphecy22

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@p1p3dream: They also mentioned in an interview that the game is actually fully rendered in 3D. The camera and the plane they locked the world's objects to only make it look 2D.

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Panzer_Zwei

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Maybe I'll try it when it goes free on PS+.

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drumjod

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@Panzer_Zwei: Lol, I'm hoping for that as well.

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Alucard_Prime

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Looks good

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Tiger_Ali

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Was playing this last night, soundtrack is awesome, game play is a little tricky as it takes some getting use to, but the mechanics are rock solid and the graphics are nice.

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ledzeppdekk

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ledzeppdekk  Staff

GULAK....Z

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newhaus1994

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@ledzeppdekk: get out of here jake

jk miss u

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Galak-Z: The Dimensional More Info

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  • First Released Aug 4, 2015
    released
    • Linux
    • Macintosh
    • + 3 more
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Galak-Z: The Dimensional is a hand painted intergalactic adventure that will take you to the ends of the universe to fight enemies in brand new ways.
    7.5
    Average Rating10 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Galak-Z: The Dimensional
    Developed by:
    17 Bit, Golem Consulting
    Published by:
    17 Bit, Golem Consulting
    Genre(s):
    2D, Action, Shoot-'Em-Up
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    Fantasy Violence, Mild Language