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Galactic Defender review - "When base defence meets vertical arcade shmup"

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| Galactic Defender: The Game
Galactic Defender review - "When base defence meets vertical arcade shmup"

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 more 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-verse

Shooting up alien spaceships
Having 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 colour against a supernova background. A big "Start" is proudly displayed in the middle and customisation 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 defence" agenda into the mix.

Sailing the vacuum ocean of the cosmos, the screen will be littered 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 colours might give you an impression that you can choose from.

There are only two aircraft to choose from considering the remaining three are colour variants of the same thing. One is a classic whose aesthetics 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 grey 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 effects

Galactic Defender gameplay
As 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 lustre 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.

Galactic Defender review - "When base defence meets vertical arcade shmup"

If you crave a down-to-earth, relaxing space shooter without all that multi-coloured madness that bombards your eyeballs, Galactic Defender is the perfect match to suit your recreational needs.
Anderson Han
Anderson Han
A wanderlust by nature who regards video games as an artful medium for creative storytelling. I implore thee to join me on my jubilant voyage through the sea of video games. PS: I find great pleasure jamming to Touhou songs while riding on public transports.