Space shooters will undoubtedly ring a nostalgic bell in the mind of the generation who went through the golden age of gaming, or Chuck E. Cheese regulars during the 1980s. At least that applies to me whose childhood is mostly invested in an old chap called “Gradius”, diligently mashing the D-pad and A/B buttons on my dusty handheld Nintendo console that was all the buzz back then.
Its iconic retro tone and enchanting sound effects still serve as an escapade into the unfathomable cosmos. Their recipe for success is a combination of simple yet adrenaline-inducing gameplay on a two-dimensional plane, with a never-ending wave of enemies dancing around, trying their best to mow you down. Perhaps, the most enticing part is the arsenal of power-ups that can transform your plane into a Christmas light show.
Fast forward to now, Renaissance sparked once again and the market flourishes with the shmup genre that sticks more closely to bullet hell with its vertical instead of landscape map. To name a few, the Bullet Monday Hell series and port of Danmaku Unlimited made their mark. However, a new entry called Galaxy Defender stepped boldly into the scene and we wonder, how does it hold up?
Into a static space-verseHaving clicked on the starry space icon featuring a goofy copy of Elvis The Alien, the expert on satire commentary whom I enjoy watching while micro-managing a live service game on the side. A triumphant soundtrack immediately emits from my device’s speakers, it was a jolly tune and the user interface is down to Earth, up to the Galaxy.
Followed by a screen with the title draped in badly matched color against a supernova background. Abig”Start” is proudly displayed in the middle and customization and settings are on the bottom left and right side respectively. It succeeded in whisking me off to the past, except it transported me to the blooming time of Newgrounds instead of retro arcades.
Point simulator – the game
Gameplay-wise, it does not deviate much from the usual space shooter. You pilot a spacecraft drifting through the ethereal space, dragging on the left side of the screen allows for fluid multi-directional movement, while tapping on the right side makes you shoot a generic fireball. It does add the “Base defense” agenda into the mix.
Sailing the vacuum ocean of the cosmos, the screen will be literal with Elvis’s underlings flying straight at you. Yes, that’s all they do. They don’t travel in any coordinated pattern, nor do they shoot any projectiles. Instead relying on kamikaze with a slither of silver lining to doom you at point-blank range. The longer the game goes on, the strategy they opted for would be “quantity over quality” instead of having attack patterns to stimulate your reflexes.
Here’s the catch. In the bottom right, the game displays a counter for the lucky ones that go to your backline, with the limit set to a stringent 50. This is where your real mission lies: Pull out all your invincible skill to get rid of the swathe of aliens, letting 50 of these critters pass will result in defeat.
The space shooter aspect is kept empirical, just swipe around the screen to dodge incoming bullets and steer clear of the aliens’ straight trajectory. Sit back and relax in your cockpit while you watch the numbers go up like the Wall Street brokers.
Meet your workhorse charting in space
One aspect that makes most space shooters enjoyable is the selection of spacecraft from a drop-down list. Coming in different sizes, shapes and projectile types, all of them are loosely inspired by popular shows or franchises like Gradius or Phalanx and colors might give you an impression that you can choose from.
There are only two aircraft to choose from considering the remaining three are color variants of the same thing. One is a classic whose aesthetic pays homage to Habroxia, while the other is just an Apache retrofitted with space propulsion jet engines. The former is available in monotone red, blue and gaudy pink, while the latter is available in a drab gray and beige paint job.
Paint and stock images held together by band-aids are the key contribution to this game’s graphics. Starting with the moving entities that looked amateurish. A fleeting sense is conveyed by the various space cosmos in the background that shifts the further you progress through different phases. But hey, there are many minigames like Henry Stickmin series that struck the bullseye with their simplicity.
Abilities and effectsAs a trademark, space shooters have a fanatical passion for boasting their gallery of special skills or effects that confers a sense of stupendous progression. Galaxy Defender chose the opposite approach by toning things down to only two power-ups: a health-up and an invincible shield that’s on demand as you sail across the fabric of space.
For the visuals, you will be relieved as there won’t be any dynamic lighting flash-banging on your screen, save for the luster green swarm of aliens and the harmless meteorite shower.
To keep the momentum, we have accompanying music blaring in the background that makes you feel like you’re marching head-on into a conflict zone with guns ablaze on the Battlefield instead of a grand space adventure.