Justice Playthrough #172: Galactic Wars

Decent little retro game that falls just short of being freakin’ awesome.

Page 9, Game 7: Galactic Wars by VolcanoBytes

First off: it’s playable in-browser, so if you want a taste, click the link.

Imagine a side-scrolling Galaga. You have a little pew-pew ship, there’s an enemy fleet of pew-pews dead ahead. Go get ’em!

Three swirly-boys who wanna slam into me

You fly around, you shoot, they asplode. When they all asplode, a new wave comes to take their place. They will, of course, try to asplode you right back. You have three lives to see how much havoc you can wreak.

Also, powerups! More guns! More zoom! More shoot!

The powerups are, unfortunately, a bit of a mixed blessing. See that “Fire Power” gauge down there at the bottom? It’s basically an energy meter. If the meter is too low, you can’t shoot — and the more bullets you fire, the more you drain it. So, the three-way shooter drains it three times as fast. Given that you might actually WANT a shitload of bullets flying in a straight line out in front of you to try and blast that jerk with the mega-laser, the three-way shooter may be a tool you don’t actually want to have.

There are also some lightning bolts that will allow you to go faster; you can grab up to two per life. Going faster is a huge boon in this game but it comes with the unfortunate knock-on effect of emphasizing how sluggish your starting ship is. This is one of those games where you have to dart in and out trying to get shots off without getting hit; without the power-ups, you’re about as nimble as a Zamboni.

One of the powerups will boost your Fire Power gauge to max and keep it there for a few seconds, allowing you to frantically blaze away as fast as you can work the fire button. This, too, calls attention to how much less fun the game is when you DON’T have this enhancement, and will likely find yourself unable to shoot at a crucial moment should you be too aggressive.

What’s more, as the game goes on, the more mini-bosses start showing up, like these guys who launch missiles at me:

It’s those two blue guys in the back

They take more hits to kill, and are a generally satisfying way to escalate the difficulty. But as you might guess, when you die, you lose all your powerups. So, if you clawed your way to Level 9 with max speed and three orbital shooty-boys spinning around you and one of the mini-bosses takes you out, that’s pretty much game over. You’ve back to Zamboni-land, sluggishly galumphing about.

This game is fun; I played it probably a dozen times or so. It totally would have gobbled a ton of my quarters back in the day. But … man, there are just so many places where it gets in its own way, little things that drag it down. The bad-guy ships move from right to left, but will lurch forward to discrete levels at random intervals. If you’re in the way, you die. So, if they’re too far to the left, unless you’re operating at full nimbleness, your best bet is to wait for them to lurch all the way off the screen and reappear on the right, where you can duck in and snipe them more safely. You may have to wait a while — but don’t worry, as long as you stay out of the firing lane for those ships, nothing can get you. A bad-ass 8-bit laser frenzy should not have intervals where you feel like you’re waiting for a traffic light to change.

When you die, your new ship has a few seconds of invulnerability — during which, you are unable to shoot. WTF? This was a minor annoyance, but an annoyance just the same. You may not interact with powerups that you already have (or have maxed-out). Again, WTF? Why not hand me some points and clear a bit of clutter off the screen? Again, only mildly annoying, but still annoying. When I have my orbital shooty-boys, they lasers they shoot come from some random point in their orbit that has no relationship to where they are on the screen, which means that trying to fire into a different lane has nothing to do with timing and everything to do with luck. Again, WTF?

Galactic Wars isn’t bad, but I want it to be better. I want the entire game to be as fun as it is when I’m at maximum nimbleness and can go hog wild with my laser cannons. I want more cannons to mean more gooder. I don’t want to have to get specific powerups before the game really becomes fun; I want it fun right away.

I’m greedy like that.

This is clearly not the best version of this game. But if you’re a fan of the genre, by all means, give it a try. It’s still pretty decent.

Will this next game feature bosses that make funky noises when I chip-off some of their HP?

Page 51, Game 21: BulletHell Planes by Gijs Westerdijk

“Shoot your way through the enemy lines in hyperpowered aircraft!!!”

Let’s go ahead and call that a “FUCK YEAH!!!!!”