Ever get in the mood for a good ol’ shmup? I’ve been a fan of the genre since I started playing games. From the quarter guzzling machines of the 80s and 90s, to the R-Type obsession I had on my NES to my present PC library collection of newer shoot ’em ups. I have always considered these style games as a welcome break at times from other genres. The same would apply to puzzle games, Tetris, Bejeweled, Mini-Metro, and others, are the kinds of games I end up breaking into for a couple of hours when you just need to disintegrate patterns or blocks as a reminder that my brain still functions. Genre mixing games that can pull off a seamless blend established gaming styles are rare gems. While it is refreshing to experience not everyone hits one out of the park on the first try, however Puny Human Studios casually releases a walk off home run with Galacide.
I was ecstatic, at long last, to put in review time on a side-scrolling arcade style game that isn’t using retro pixel graphics. Graphics alone do not make up a complete game. When graphics are used to dress up the game’s core elements, it is refreshing. That’s the case with Galacide, developers Puny Human Studios (of Blade Symphony fame) have utilized the Unreal4 engine to design this shmups/puzzler. Explosions, sparks, and millions of deadly fireballs fill your screen with a pronounced punch. Your ships, and enemy vehicles, are rendered with glossy goodness, and silky lighting effects that enhance the ongoing space ballet of death I’ve been drawn into.
These pretty effects are a mere backdrop to the reflex and quick thinking required to solve Galacide’s complex and long levels. Initially the game’s opening moments on normal difficulty deceived me into believing this was a slow, easy game. The developers gently guide players up the learning curve. Getting the basics down early is essential to solving any of the games additional levels and bosses.
What sets Galacide apart from other shmups is the advancing ‘bit wall’ of hexagonal blocks in your path. These blocks will barricade and eventually destroy your ship as the screen advances. You can assemble a pattern of four or more colored hexes to destroy sections of this wall by destroying enemy ships and collecting colored orbs. These orbs are captured one at a time, depending on the ship you have chosen, and fired at the grid. The orbs will turn into a hexagonal colored grid piece of matching color. Successfully match colors and that section of the bit wall will melt away. As the bit wall advances, choosing to change the colors of individual wall pieces or laying down new ones, requires as much split second timing as dodging enemy shots, and avoiding collisions. In time I grew to subconsciously manage both well, but knowing when to alternate between shmup action and puzzle solving becomes the key switch and undefined aspect that had me hooked on Galacide for hours.
This ballet of puzzle solving, swaying through danger, and laying down the laser beam law on enemies becomes more vibrant with friends. I am always on the lookout for entertaining Steam Big Picture Mode game for couch coop goodness, and Galacide is a perfect fit. Firing up 3 controllers I discovered that regardless of skill level, this game’s appeal can be wide ranging in groups. Our 2-3 player sessions would escalate into assignment based play. One of us would be the dedicated bit wall destroyer, while the others tackled just enemies. These impromptu roles would happen naturally, and it turned hectic hard to beat areas- into moments of victorious cheers.
Galacide’s levels can turn into a ninety-five car pileup wrecks during rush hour. Selecting the wrong colors happens more and more in the later levels. It becomes almost unavoidable with so many objects in close proximity. Unlocking ships can actually be a little confusing, as the established patterns of switching orbs, can change with other ships. These new ship abilities that replace old ones are not explained in detail.
Puny Human Studios has succeeded in merging two established genres, without taking away from either one.It might affect my view of either genre for a long time, as quick thinking puzzle solving gameplay is not something that comes with most shmups. Nor does crazed bullet dodging populate puzzle games. The entire game is blended well, offers great coop modes, and features a nice techno soundtrack. A couple of additional modes are included as well: a puzzle mode sends progressively harder challenges towards players and an endurance mode of progressively harder waves and bit walls add a couple of options for level selection. For those looking for a refreshing change of pace in the shoot ’em ups, or for those players looking for more excitement in their puzzle games, look no further than Galacide. Available now on Steam or the The Humble Store.Steam HumbleStore PunyHuman