In the “Arcade Sunday” article series, I present you short and sweet arcade titles for fans of the genre. The motto is: Guaranteed to have played it yourself and rated 100% with the retro glasses!
I had the privilege of being able to experience the “golden age of arcade games” and early “telegames” as a child and teenager in the 80s. Since then, the former fascination for the mostly simple, but nevertheless memorable gaming experiences of the titles of that time has continued to accompany me throughout my gaming career. So time up GamersGlobal to start my new series of articles, in which I examine and evaluate newer representatives from the arcade genre for you. Enjoy the premiere edition of “Arcade Sunday” now!
As the first title to be presented for the new article series, I have galacticon picked out for you. The 2D shoot-em-up (available for PC and Switch since May 2022) mixes well-known gameplay mechanics from classics like a defense, Joust or Jetpac into such a virtuoso arcade experience that I really want to recommend this indie title to genre fans.
Story and setting of Galacticon
A story in a Shmup title? Sure, there is, but it fits into three screen boxes and is told quickly: Evil humanity is subjugating the peoples of the galaxy and therefore the cosmic council calls on a noble warrior for help, the half-god Galacticon. So you slip into his role and save the alien races from the human henchmen on a total of eight different planets, including a final boss fight.
By the way, the names of the stars should look very familiar to you as an older semester and film fan: Dagobar, LV-426.5, Mongor, Arrakii… Well, does it ring for you? Accordingly, you will also find a typical background scenario from the various film templates on the respective celestial body and discover one or the other iconic gimmick: The crashed alien ship from the first alien-Film by director Ridley Scott for example.
|Fans of the Alien franchise may be familiar with the ship in the background, the scene is from the third level of Galacticon.|
On the first planet (Dagobar) your mission begins and so you fly around the screen in your winged battle suit to free the kidnapped aliens from the clutches of the human captors while a timer counts down. With the laser weapons in your hands, you shoot down the flying and spawning enemies and their prisoner transport ships – either via single or continuous fire. You quickly collect the aliens that have been freed from their predicament (and also randomly appearing on the platforms) and land with them on the lower level to unload them in the three large escape pods (each with four places). You can carry up to four aliens with you at the same time.
Of course, people try to shoot you down, if you hit or collide with the enemy you lose one of your precious screen lives. So it’s worth keeping an eye out for collectible power-ups that will at least make your mission a little easier. Such as a protective shield that provides you with a short-term invulnerability. A laser that lets you shoot to both sides. Or you ignite a mega bomb, which then clears the screen of all enemies. You can also collect bonus time, which increases the (generously measured) time limit even further – or, with a bit of luck, get hold of a rare extra life.
If you have fully occupied your escape pods with twelve aliens, you start the departure to the mother ship. On a second stage that scrolls up, you now fly back to the base ship, avoiding huge asteroids, for example, which you can also shoot into their individual parts for points. The gems you collect in the process also boost your score. These second stages also come up with their own scenario and become more demanding with the completed levels.
|In the second, vertically scrolling stage of the current level, you fly up when returning to the mothership.|
You should also bring a tactical approach to the shooting-heavy gameplay when rescuing the little alien men, because not all three alien races get along with each other. It is therefore most valuable to place four of the same color (from the colors red, blue or brown for the respective breed) in the three capsules. Because after the successful escape and docking with the base ship, you get a level balance sheet and there are further points awarded for the rescued (if you also reach the secret “bonus goal” of the level, fat extra points beckon). A 3:1 ratio for the races in the escape pod, on the other hand, will even cost you points.
The score you achieve is important, because every time you reach 200,000 points you unlock an extra life. Believe me that you can use it in the later stages. Galacticon is, in keeping with the arcade tradition, a “looper”: If you defeat the boss after a total of eight stages, the game starts all over again – with always challenging opponents.
Optics, sound and controls
It quickly became clear to me that the developer approached Galacticon with an eye for detail, in order to audio-visually pay homage to the golden age of slot games. “Look & Feel” from Galacticon speak for themselves: When I fly through the planetary levels as a galactic warrior – with a reduced color but still aesthetic 8-bit graphic style – and eliminate the opponents with my lasers, I become optical rewarded with particle effects that will make any Defender veteran revel in the old days. The structure of the planet levels with the various platforms is reminiscent of Joust.
All eight planets are designed differently from the scenario and come with individual opponents, even if the general structure with the platforms and the existing escape pods doesn’t change much. The vertical, second stage also brings some variety to the course of the game with its sequence, the return trip to the mother ship fits in homogeneously. In the meantime, it felt like a short detour to the Atari classic for me asteroid when I crumble the flying boulders in space. But that’s not all, the content of the stage also changes with each new level.
The economical, cool-sounding voice output and title melody as well as crisp, concise sound effects garnish the famous action on the screen with the appropriate sound flair from that time. The responsive control contributes to brilliant playability, which, together with the fair but constantly increasing level of difficulty, tempts you to start the entertaining title again and again. As in the past, it is important to push the previous high score (which, by the way, is also listed on an online leaderboard) further up when trying again.
Summary of the title
|Galacticon is a splendid representative of the genre and pays homage to the classic arcade cabinets with a love of detail.|
Wow, what an amazing trip down the memory lane! Galacticon is a little revelation for the old-school shmup fan: A groovy and excellently playable arcade representative, garnished with pop culture reminiscences – and definitely a lovingly pixelated homage to the legendary Defender and Joust cabinets of the former American manufacturer Williams Electronics.
As a classic slot machine version for the arcades of the time, Galacticon would certainly have been a hot contender for a “quarter pumper” par excellence. The “attract mode” (a self-running demo mode of the machines) with voice output and music would have lured young and old audiences in front of the screen and encouraged them to insert coins, I’m convinced of that!
|Galacticon’s audiovisual presentation and menu style do a splendid job of recreating the “arcade flair” of yesteryear.|