Galak-Z: The Dimensional is a challenging omnidirectional space shooter with a vivid art style that takes pages from 8-bit classics and popular anime.
Galak-Z: The Dimensional may not have the look of a traditional rogue-like, but it wears the markers of the genre with pride. Developed by 17-Bit Studios (Skulls of the Shogun), Galak-Z pays homage to anime and Saturday morning cartoons, but don’t expect anything designed for kids. Like any good rogue-like, Galak-Z wants to challenge players at every turn, and punish them for their carelessness.
It’s a good thing then that the game is so much fun to play. Built like an omnidirectional, side-scrolling version of Asteroids, Galak-Z presents players with a fairly unassuming set of levels, which are collected into four separate “seasons" and put players in control of a young pilot named A-Tak. Each episode within a season tasks the player with venturing through a space installation or rock formation and either collecting a valuable item or rescuing a fallen space pilot. However, getting in and getting back to the warp point safely is easier said than done, and it’s made even more difficult by Galak-Z’s permadeath.
Although, the game is broken out into four separate seasons, each of the individual episodes in Galak-Z does not carry its own restart point. So, if the player dies at any point during a season, regardless of it’s the first episode or the last, they will need to start the entire season over. Moreover, any ship upgrades (armor, shield, lasers, missiles, etc.) are lost along the way as well. It can be quite crushing, but it’s also part of what makes Galak-Z so engrossing.
That’s not to say Galak-Z doesn’t have its fair share of frustrations, but those feel mostly by design. See, in an effort to keep the game original and somewhat nostalgic, 17-Bit designed A-Tak's spaceship, the Galak-Z, with a floaty movement system. Players can propel forward or back, they can brake, and they can strafe, but each of those actions carries some inherent inertia. So if you couple that with oncoming enemies, it becomes a bit of a challenge trying to shoot at them and dodge their fire at the same time. There's even some strategy at play in the game, where players can either sneak past certain enemies or even pit different factions - like the rebel space pirates and the alien bugs - against each other.
Eventually, though, the mechanics start to become second nature, and the upgrades make it easier to manage enemy encounters. However, that learning curve is going to be off-putting to some, but it’s worth sticking with it. Over time, players will come to understand that not every enemy is worth fighting and not every area supports combat; it’s up to each player to read the situation and determine how best to approach things.
The good news, though, is that failure doesn’t completely wipe the slate; Galak-Z does feature a carryover currency called Crash Coins that lets players buy upgrades right from the start of a season. So, if you’ve found a particularly useful upgrade it’s possible to equip that at the beginning and have an easier time progressing. However, spending the Crash Coins and then dying before earning any more is a real momentum killer, and leaves the player with nothing. It’s those moments that are the most disheartening, and will likely deter more casual gamers.
But, the hardcore among us will push on through Galak-Z and find a vibrant world of space combat that revels in bright reds, blues, yellows, and greens. The design of 17-Bit’s game is so engrossing that even though the experience is challenging, players will want to push forward to see what’s next. And let’s just say that there’s an incredible, Voltron-esque treat lying at the end of Season 1.
Picking up and playing Galak-Z: The Dimensional is an experience not easily encapsulated in a few words. It’s challenging, whimsical, and a great throwback to a time when combat was deceptively simple. That being said, the game will not be for everyone. The aforementioned challenge and the game’s billing as a rogue-like means that players will fail, and that in itself may be a turn off, especially since there is a lot to like about the game from a design perspective. But we recommend pushing forward and learning the mechanics, because Galak-Z is a refreshing space shooter that brings some surprising elements to the rogue-like genre. Give Galak-Z a try (and stick with it!) and you might come out loving it by the end.
Galak-Z is available now for PC and PS4. Game Rant was provided a PS4 code for this review.