Having arrived first on Xbox before other consoles, The Galactic Junkers tells the story of a captain on the run from pretty much everyone. An extinction level event called The Great Cataclysm destroyed the Earth and forced humanity to spread out across the stars to survive. This means the solar system is fraught with danger, and you’ll need your wits and a loyal crew to survive.
It doesn’t take much to make you the galaxy’s most wanted either, before bounty hunters, space pirates and the Galactic Union are all out to put a stop to your shenanigans. Still, if you’re on the run you might as well make the most of the opportunity to break some rules whilst you try to discover why everyone wants you dead.
This action and adventure and sim hybrid game puts you in the shoes of a captain, offering you the opportunity to customise your leader from a pretty generous selection of preset styles. As well as your physical appearance, there are numerous options to choose from in terms of fashion sense.
The Galactic Junkers takes place in a version of our own solar system, with you exploring all nine regions of space that surround the planets within it. Jump gates provide the means to hop between sectors, and there are asteroids, space stations and enemy ships which populate each area of space.
There’s a fairly straightforward but lengthy single player campaign on offer, split into chapters. In all honesty, there’s a lot of item fetching and travelling back and forth which can start to drag if you are playing The Galactic Junkers for hours at a time. All the sectors of space are very similar too, even most of the space stations have exactly the same layout which makes the action feel repetitive before long. Not only this, but despite the scale of the game it actually feels rather empty, with little variety in terms of things to do.
Exploration is curtailed somewhat due to the ability to bring up every item of interest as soon as you enter a sector of space. Instead you’ll find yourself heading straight for your next objective. Mining asteroids will yield random rewards, such as ore, gems or valuable old earth artefacts which can be sold to traders. Enemy ships will often stalk you as you travel, before opening fire and attempting to board your vessel. Your wanted level will increase with the amount of time you spend in a sector, making enemy encounters more likely. If they catch you in their tractor beam, the crew will engage yours in a firefight whilst attempting to sabotage your spacecraft.
These encounters can be very tricky and have the potential to wipe out your crew. If you die it’s game over, as a crew cannot function without its captain. However, if you eliminate the enemy crew then there are potentially plenty of spoils to steal by raiding their cargo hold and salvaging their equipment for scrap.
Fortunately, The Galactic Junkers features an autosave feature which means you’ll rarely lose significant progress. However, if you find yourself in a bit of a bind then making use of the manual save feature can help avoid a lot of repetitive play. I made use of this a lot, with some passages of play being very much the case of marginal gains split up by my constant saving.
This did mean I struggled to get into a good rhythm when playing The Galactic Junkers, as a random enemy encounter would often occur with little warning and would kill my progress. If you make it to the various space stations hassle free, many are stuffed with guards that you will need to avoid as you go about your business. They have cones of vision, Metal Gear Solid style, and if you get recognised then the whole station will hunt you down pretty much guaranteeing death by laser rifle. Again, one mistake would spell the end of your attempt at that mission.
Friendly bases are much easier to trade at. As well as selling your loot, you will be able to buy weapons, clothes, ship upgrades and even brand new spacecraft. The cloaking device, for example, is especially handy for sneaking through dangerous sectors undetected. Certain traders will also repair your ship for a fee, preventing its integrity from failing as you engage in space battles. It’s here you will also find individuals willing to join your crew.
This is important because if a crew member dies, they won’t come back. Managing their key stats such as health, hunger and fatigue is also important to keeping things running smoothly and being able to defend yourself against space pirates.
Not only will you need a strong crew, but you’ll also need to maintain and repair all of the equipment on board, such as the mining laser, turret, shield, food dispenser and other items of machinery.
The Galactic Junkers needs fine tuning in terms of how it controls on console; it quite clearly feels like it was built with the PC in mind. Moving the cursor with the thumbsticks isn’t as precise as with a mouse, and as a result highlighting the correct thing can be a faff. For example, in the heat of combat I accidentally kept instructing my team to move instead of selecting a target and ordering them to fire. This meant that they would run right up to the enemy, taking serious damage in the process. You can also cycle through your crew members with the bumpers, but it’s not overly obvious who you’re in control of. As a result, plenty of avoidable mistakes were made.
In terms of looks, The Galactic Junkers isn’t going to win any awards. It did also crash on me a few times and sometimes my little crewmates would shoot into the air as if being beamed up, but get stuck halfway and start to glitch. But a fair way into the campaign it became almost unplayable. Several times after around five minutes of run time the performance would deteriorate and the game shut down. After many, many attempts it did eventually hold steady but not before freezing up just as I went to save some substantial progress. If it wasn’t for this, The Galactic Junkers would have bagged a better score but the issues were too serious and persistent to ignore.
Enemies would also get stuck in doorways too, making them easy pickings. Also, a couple of times I couldn’t get through a doorway into a boarded ship, so I had to reboot the game. At times, my crew would inexplicably decide to try and fight off five enemies at a time despite me ordering them to run. There are certainly some glitches which need to be ironed out.
However, there’s something undeniably cute about the dumpy characters waddling about as they go about their business. Although the game is billed as “comedic”, apart from the appearance of the cast it was largely lost on me. The soundtrack is pretty funky though, and enjoyable too.
I really wanted to like The Galactic Junkers, and I did at times. However, the clunky controls and glitch ridden gameplay will prevent you from becoming totally absorbed in the far out world.
The Galactic Junkers is available from the Xbox Store