I’m a big fan of Shmups as I’ve made mention before and am always keen to try new takes on the genre. Galacide certainly manages to bring just such a take, mixing as it does Shmup gameplay with a Match 4 puzzle mechanics. What results is an interesting blend of fast action and quick thinking, though it’s all to easy to get lost in the shuffle.
The Shmup aspect of Galacide is pretty good. The ships (with four in total to unlock) control well, with the usual fast paced movement and firing. Enemies approach from the right and we need to have about 10 eyes on the action at once as bullets whizz by, ships kamikaze attack and more. But this is only half the story.
Mixed in is a Match 4 puzzle element that at once adds a fun extra challenge while also making the screen and gameplay a little too busy for my liking. There are 3 colour cores that appear in the play field ahead of us in various formations. When an enemy is destroyed they drop a collectible core of a random colour. This is then picked up and fired at the cores ahead of us, with a match of four or more removing them from the field, letting us through.
Early on I managed to find a good rhythm with this. The starting ship can only collect the dropped cores when we stop firing, and is unable to fire again until we send the core to its destination. Other ships handle things differently – the second unlocked can hold several cores to use at your leisure – but this sums up to main loop of Galacide; kill the enemies, stop firing to pick up the core, aim and fire it to try to make a match. Rinse and repeat.
Enemy ships can bypass the cores while we need to destroy them to do so. This can make seeing the ships a little tricky as they can blend into the background. It doesn’t take long for the play space to be absolutely full of ships, cores and pickups either and all too often I found myself picking up the wrong colour core, or accidently firing one of instead of shooting my gun. On the easiest of the three difficulties this is somewhat manageable early on, but later levels and higher difficulties require a level of zen-like concentration that I do not possess. Even those that do will struggle with the same issues I’d wager, as the collectibles are often so tightly gathered that it’s down to pure luck with one will be picked up. We can drop an unwanted core, but I found myself losing track of the dangers ahead as I was spending too long faffing around trying to drop and grab the right colour quickly.
Upgrades are handled in a slightly odd way too; Clearing a set of 4 cores will drop the associated colour power-up, but they are all temporary. One upgrades our gun, but only for 30 seconds, for example. There is also an XP meter that ticks up as we destroy ships or cores but also constantly ticks down too so if we break in the action for too long we lose some buffs we might have gained. It is, like Galacide as a whole, an interesting idea to keep us in the action but in practice just means that we spend more time underpowered than we’d like.
The levels are a decent length, most coming in at around 6 minutes, and we get three lives to help us through, thankfully. Each is ended by a boss battle that straddles the line between too easy or too hard and mix up the mechanics slightly. One has us firing several cores into a giant snake-type creature’s mouth to stun them so we can fire at the weak point on their head. There’s nothing especially memorable about them, but they are enjoyable caps to the levels.
Galacide must be commended on its attempt to mix up the Shmup formula; by adding in the Match 4 elements it provides more challenge than simply (ha, simply) dodging bullets and shooting down ships. Unfortunately this innovation comes at the cost of being able to easily read the screen, and accurately utilise the mechanics to progress. A worthy curio then, but not one to rush out and play.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.