Delivering a blend of traditional side-scrolling shooter and match-four puzzle play, Galacide is a title that will hit the mark for those after an interesting spin on the classics.
As the world of gaming grows larger and larger, the traditional gaming genres are steadily mixing with different styles of video game. Big budget titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Revelations have blended the likes of tower defense mechanics into its overall stealth action gameplay. Meanwhile, open world titles such as GTA 5 and Skyrim have added minigames and sidequests that aim to fulfill a player’s itch for a different kind of gaming experience.
It’s not only AAA titles had can bring together a number of different genres. A case in point in Galacide from indie developer Puny Human, which manages to combine elements of side-scrolling shoot-‘em ups and fast-paced puzzle games. Looking to bring the frantic elements of both genres together, with a race against time to clear blocks combined with having to avoid furious enemy fire, Galacide certainly promises to bring quite a challenge to players.
That challenge is immediately evident, too. Coming across as a bizarre blend of Columns and R-Type, this shooter-puzzler requires players keep track of a multitude of different factors at once. The match-four puzzle mechanics work in tandem with a traditional shmup side-scrolling screen, with players desperately trying to maneuver away from enemy craft while cutting a path through the barricade.
Certainly, players will have to think laterally to make sure they survive. With many pathways blocked, players must clear through each stage using floating debris, catching and releasing items that correspond with the blocks halting their progress. Matching four blocks of the same type destroys them all, allowing the player to take a few more steps towards their goal.
Although this sometimes feels like a relatively stop-start way to play an action-focused title, the player is given a little more proactive ability to help clear these barricades halting their progress. After grabbing floating items, players can carry their catch to the nearest barricade. Touching the item to the barrier will then swap the color of the barricade block, which can lead to an easier route through the level.
Of course, those match-four mechanics are not the only challenge that the player faces. Along the way, the player will come under attack from enemy ships, flying directly at the player or releasing a barrage of shots. As well as avoiding attacks, players will need to fight back themselves – after all, some of these opposing ships carry items of their own, which the player can then use to break down further barriers.
Galacide takes a more shooter-focused turn when it comes to the game’s boss battles. In true shmup style, Puny Human have put a lot of effort into creating fearsome end-of-level bosses for this PC-only title, with huge enemy craft taking up most of the screen. Unleashing broad barrages of fire, Galacide’s bosses are not to be trifled with.
It’s not just the campaign to keep players occupied, though. Alongside the main story mode, Galacide also includes other game modes for gamers to test their skills. In particular, the Puzzle Play levels act as a good foil for the main game, emphasising the puzzle aspects of the title in short, sharp bursts of gameplay. Although some may find them tricky, the Puzzle Play levels offer a different level of challenge to the frantic action of the campaign.
The campaign itself also has some variety for players, as Galacide offers up local multiplayer. Up to four players can take on the game’s story, meaning that a few friends can team up to complete the challenge on show. The co-operative element is welcome, although some may find that the multiplayer game may add even more clutter to an already chaotic experience.
Players also have some choices within the main game – aside from whether or not to unleash multiplayer allies on the unsuspecting alien menace. Gamers can choose from three kinds of ship to pilot, with the Phase Ship perfect for players after swift maneuvering ability, the Freighter better for those after firepower, and the Mining Ship falling somewhere in between. Although each ship makes only a slight difference to the way the game plays, the choice is still welcome, adding a little more depth to the title.
Those after a real shmup fix will no doubt be most interested in the game’s Endless Play mode, however. Giving seasoned veterans a survival-based version of the game, this game mode is a perfect companion to the main story, fitting the game’s puzzle and shooter mechanics well. Unlocked over the course of the campaign, Endless Play mode also has leaderboards for an additional competitive edge.
Unfortunately, Galacide falls down in a few areas, particularly when it comes to visual aspects. Although the basics are done extremely well, with different colors of block vibrant and easy to pick out against the game’s backdrops, unfortunately the overall graphical style is little more than functional. Whilst titles such as Grow Home and Lost Orbit pull off impressive stylistic choices in spite of limitations, Galacide feels a little bit basic in comparison, although the game’s boss battles bump the visuals up a notch.
Of course, graphical quality isn’t exactly a priority with a title such as this, and when it comes to gameplay Galacide pulls no punches. With such a small development team, it’s a relief that game mechanics and sheer fun were prioritized during the development process. Whilst there are some issues with the gameplay in places, with the action sometimes feeling a little clunky and levels occasionally dragging due to a lack of variety, Galacide is nonetheless an entertaining title.
Most importantly, however, this game comes carrying fun by the barrel-full. Gamers after an instinct- and reflex-based title will likely enjoy Galacide’s frantic action, particularly if they are au fait with some classic 90s video games. In fact, Galacide is perfect for those seeking a nostalgia fix without looking for a cookie-cutter clone of some of the more well-known games of the era. With shooter gameplay reminiscent of the likes of R-Type and Gradius, and puzzle elements that seem inspired by Bust-a-Move, Galacide almost feels like a best-of title for 1990s gaming aficionados.
All in all, the two gameplay styles blend together very well, taking the best mechanics of both shooters and match-four puzzle games and combining them into one solid title. Although some may find the game a little wanting in some areas, particularly if an interesting aesthetic angle is key to a player’s enjoyment, Galacide wins out in all the areas that really matter for a game of its type. Overall, Galacide is an impressive shmup, and fans of both puzzle games and shooters will find plenty to enjoy in its hybrid gameplay.
Galacide is out now for PC. Game Rant was provided a PC code for this review.