I have been very talkative about roguelike games this year. Or, at least I have been very talkative about games that use roguelike elements. Hand of Fate, Guild of Dungeoneering, and today’s game review, Galak Z: The Dimensional are all popular games that use elements of the roguelike genre to give gamers a challenging experience. While I do think these types of games are overused, like first-person horror or narrative-driven games, I don’t mind them if they execute the overall product well, or if they do something different with it. Where does Galak Z: The Dimensional stand? Well, this roguelike top-down action shooter, developed by the individuals at 17-BIT, the creators behind Skull of the Shogun, is one of the toughest, but most satisfying games of 2015.
The game puts you in the seat of a young male pilot named A-Tak, who is in charge of destroying this evil imperial army. If you have watched any anime from the late 80s or early 90s that had robots in them, like “Gundam” or “Macross,” then you will easily recognize the plot for this game. However, that is part of the charm. This game’s story is filled with the clichés and quirks that come with being in an epic space opera. You’ve got your snarky brown-haired pilot, who is voiced by Michael Sinterniklaas, (or you might know him better as Dean Venture from “The Venture Bros.”), a spacecraft that can turn into a robot, and aliens that have fish-like nicknames. There isn’t a whole lot of depth to the story, but it’s a fun enough experience.
Galak-Z: The Dimensional is a top-down-roguelike- action-oriented shooter. You control your ship as you go through four different “seasons” of the game, each including five levels with a boss fight at the end. For the first season, you will be stuck with your spacecraft. You can go forward, speed-boost, go backwards, stay stationary, gain a designated dodge button, can launch a multitude of missiles, and obtain a strafe button. Once you get past that first season, you will then gain the ability to turn into a mech. In your mech form, you are stuck in close-range combat, with a shield to block whatever is in front of you, a grappling hook to grab onto objects and enemies, and your sword that can deflect bullets. Enemies are tough, and range in terms of difficulty. You either need to learn how the controls work, how combat works, or learn how to stealth your way, and use the environment to your advantage, or else you will get wrecked! Luckily, you do have upgrades that give your ships different abilities, like bullets that bounce off walls or having more charge to your boost. If you die at any point in any of the five missions of the season, you have to start all the way back from square one of that season. No permanent upgrades. However, the game does throw you a bone with Crash Coins. These special coins will carry over into a new game, and will give you additional money that you can spend on decking out your ride, and cause havoc on the fools that wronged you. Your mileage will vary on your experience with Galak-Z: The Dimensional. It could take you a good couple of hours to beat the game, or maybe not a whole lot of time at all. Just be aware that the levels and missions, with the exception of the fifth mission, will be unique due to a random number generator. This means that each game will be different, and it will most likely be your fault that you died and have to start over.
Graphically, this is a colorful-looking game. I really enjoy the bright colors of the reds, blues, greens, browns, and purples that make the game’s ships and enemies stand out. I also enjoy the fact that the enemies will talk back to you. The game is very vibrant with its explosions and satisfying combat. It’s a visual bowl of colors, explosions, and corny lines. The music is full of ambiance and technobeats once the action picks up. The presentation does its best to pay homage to old-school anime, and it pulls off the look and polish of something from the 80s perfectly.
I regret to say that I have some problems with Galak-Z: The Dimensional. Even though I get the rules that come with a roguelike game, I feel like 17-BIT could have made the game easier to get into. Due to the difficulty, and how if you die once, you not only lose all of your upgrades, and have to start over on the very first mission of that “season,” it results in a game where if you are not careful, or if the bad guys just swarm you, you will feel like you are not making any progress. You get the tools and the skill to take down your enemies, but I wish the game had taken a few notes from Rogue Legacy. Sure, you start over from the very beginning with a new character in that game, but you also get a permanent skill tree that makes you feel stronger and tougher to go against each level’s baddies and boss. Plus, Rogue Legacy still relied on the player’s skill and tight controls to make it through the level. Another element that Galak-Z: The Dimensional could have done was not making the level of punishment so severe. Not that the missions between the first and fourth level are all that interesting, but having to start over with no upgrades, and an inconsistent amount of Crash Coins to cash in, it almost makes the game a chore to play through. I don’t mind the high level of difficulty, and amount of player freedom to tackle the levels at your own pace, but after a while of what seems like no progress, the difficulty becomes a constant head-ache. Galak-Z: The Dimensional also suffers from being in a crowded market, where it competes with many contenders who make sure starting over from square one is not so punishing. The visuals are great, but after a while, and due to starting over and over again on the levels, they begin to all look the same.
Even with the complaints and rage moments during the game, Galak-Z: The Dimensional is a great roguelike game. I feel like the game could have not leaned on its difficulty so much, but once you learn how the game works and how you learn the little ins and outs of the combat, the game is really enjoyable to play. It’s one of the better roguelike games out there, and it has a lot of personality. It’s $20 right now on PlayStation 4, and if you like hard games, and games in the roguelike genre, then by all means get it. Or, you can wait for a sale. I have really started to like what 17-BIT has been developing, and I hope they make many more games in the future.
This game gets an 8 out of 10