It must be tricky being a game developer these days. “Make a new game, something no-one has ever seen before”, I imagine are just some of the words that are uttered from the mouths of studio bosses, while the devs sit back, concerned that everything has been done already. What this mental ramble is leading up to is Galacide, coming from Puny Human – a self-described indie studio out of North Carolina. Galacide is a type of game I’ve certainly not played before – a shoot ’em up fused with a match-3 game; something that is indeed new in fact, running much like Galaga meets Gems of War, if you will. Does this collaboration work, or is it a fusion too far?
There is a story to Galacide, but it’s fairly forgettable fluff, to be brutally honest. There is an alien invasion, and we have to stop it, yet these particular aliens are very sneaky and have deployed something called the Bitwall in an attempt to impede your progress. Sneaky they may be, but sadly they aren’t very smart, as the key to destroying said Bitwall is found in crystals of varying colours, which the alien scum have put into their collective pockets for safekeeping. As we fly around and shoot the alien ships, various crystals of differing colours will become attached to your ship, and these will then allow you to destroy the corresponding colour of the Bitwall. Purple crystal thing takes down the purple section of the Bitwall. Are you with me?
So, the scene is set for a titanic tussle between the forces of good and evil; human and alien. It is fairly straightforward to describe, Galacide, but in reality playing it is a different matter. You know the old saying about rubbing your head and patting your stomach? This is like trying to do that while on fire – it’s somewhat hard to concentrate on either activity. As you shoot enemies and gain crystals, the Bitwall is constantly expanding, and without a clear head it’s very easy to find yourself hemmed in; if the back of the screen catches you because you flew down a blind alley, then that’s one life lost. There is a ray of hope however, with the ability to change the colour of some parts of the Bitwall – if you fly to a section of the wall and make contact with a crystal attached before firing it, that section will change colour to be the same as the crystal you had attached.
Of course, what you really need to take the fight to the alien scum is a powerful ship, and luckily as you power through the Bitwall and advance the story, more ships do become available. You start off in the space equivalent of a rusty old banger in the Mining Ship. This has the special ability of having a Tractor Beam, which you can use to pull in the crystals that you use to progress. The next ship is the Freighter, which while not a combat ship by any manner of means, has the ability to store crystals, depending on your need. The last two ships – the Military Ship and the Phase Ship – are much more like it, with the ability to pass through sections of the Bitwall (by phasing, if you will) or by having a serious amount of firepower and the ability to break the Bitwall, bursting through and carving its own path. There’s a lot of Bitwall and enemies between you and the ships, mind.
The game looks fairly basic visually, but thankfully at all times the graphics are up to the task of portraying what’s going on without ever threatening to set the world on fire. The sound is up to snuff as well, with explosions and laser sounds all working well. There are a few different options as regards gameplay as well, apart from the story mode I’ve outlined above. There is Endless Play, which does what it says on the tin – you and your ship start at the left of the screen, and must make your way to the right, until the end of time itself. Puzzle Play sees you take on the devious minds of the developers, as they set you the challenge of beating a series of pre-set scenarios that will challenge your mind as well as your trigger finger. With co-op play possible that works well, even if it is a bit hard to see what’s going on when another player comes along for the ride, and in-game leaderboards to keep you score chasing, there’s no shortage of content to keep you playing.
Now we come to the tricky matter of a conclusion and whether or not Galacide on Xbox is worth your time, effort and money. The fusion of shooter and match-3 mechanics does work, and while it’s hard to keep on top of the situation, practice certainly helps. What doesn’t work so well is the amount of fun on offer as Galacide quickly becomes frustrating. It’s fun for a short blast, don’t get me wrong, and if your life has a shooter/match-3 shaped hole in it this will fit perfectly, but at the end of the day the game kind of falls between two stools. There’s fun to be had, and co-op always helps with longevity, but you may well be left wanting something more.