Galaga is essentially Space Invaders meets ballet. You’re faced with waves of colourful little aliens that swoop about in elegant, sweeping formations toward your dinky space ship. Charming as they may sound, they’re out to smash you into a cloud of weightless human remains, but it's easy to become entranced by their movement.
The charms of this old arcade game are weakened by questionable controls, though Galaga REMIX does its best to fire up nostalgia for another run.
You're offered two versions of the 1981 arcade classic with Galaga REMIX. The first is a mostly-unadulterated original, complete with bleeping sound effects and pixels as wide as a deserted alien world. The Remix version, on the other hand, offers improved visuals, sound and, curiously, is played in landscape rather than portrait.
The Remix version is designed to be easier, at least for the first few levels. Unlike the original mode, the aliens of Remix don’t fire at you all that much. You’re far more likely to be killed by a charging suicide bug than its laser cannons.
Instead of being judged solely on whether you survive, you’re scored on the proportion of enemies you manage to destroy. The original version lingers even if there’s just one sole dive-bombing alien declaring jihad on you, but the enemies in Remix are content to escape if the odds are against them.
This has the effect of making the original more challenging. Although the visuals are more detailed in the new mode, they’re not unequivocally improved, lacking the purity afforded by the other mode’s retro simplicity.
Persevere with Remix mode, though, and you’re rewarded with a genuinely richer game. Boss battles with huge insect-like creatures and an increased variety of enemies give it greater appeal if you stick with it. There’s just a little more to plough through than in the pedal-to-the-metal original mode.
The strange disparity between the modes doesn’t end there. There are three control modes on offer for each game, but only one is particularly useful for each and they’re not even the same across both. Accelerometer, touchscreen slider, and virtual button controls are provided.
Accelerometer mode is singularly useless, requiring you to tilt your device nigh-on 45 degrees to even get your ship to flinch, by which point you can’t tell what’s on screen.
Touchscreen control is uncomfortable in Classic mode since you have to move and shoot using the same thumb. Button control isn’t great in Remix as the button aren't placed or sized very well. That said, touch control works fine in Remix and button control feels right in Classic mode.
Several of these issues could have been solved with the simple addition of an autofire option. We can’t really call this a missed opportunity as it’s likely a result of pedantic adherence to the source material. Often admirable, sometimes not so much.
Although the pixel-perfect rendition of Galaga shows that a good deal of work has gone into this game, the amount of avoidable niggles hold it back. Galaga REMIX proves that the game has aged quite well and remains an addictive slice of retro nostalgia even as it takes on new forms and platforms.