It is not often that a promo for anything, let alone an iOS game, makes me laugh out loud, but the pair that indie developer, Charlie Schulze, got in to help market Galactic Nemesis are a just so bad, they’re brilliant – and in many ways that is what reliving old 80s classic is like. The simplicity of gameplay, the 8-bit graphics, the electronic music produced on a chiptune. On their own they all pretty mundane and unspectacular, but combined in the right manner and they are capable of producing a videogame that is simply beautiful – a game like Galaga.
Galactic Nemesis clearly borrows heavily from the 80s classic. But it is a homage – not a ripoff – of Namco’s fixed shooter. It is a throwback to a time when arcade machines gobbled up our loose change and then our pocket money too, just for the chance to face yet another wave of aliens threatening to destroy our plucky little spaceship. Schulze’s aim was to fill the vacuum that is arcade space shooters in the App Store and pay tribute to the videogames he and his friends spent hours playing at their local pizzeria. But does his incarnation of a classic bring the nostalgia of the arcade to the fingers of mobile gamers or is this labor of love a let down?
Schulze’s re-imagining of our collective childhood is close, but falls a little short of the original and fails to build on it in any memorable way. Players start off with a generic vessel, low-powered vessel, but as you blast your way through wave after wave of insectoids you will garner cash that can be exchanged for upgrades (faster fire rate, longer lasting lasers, and more durable shields) and even new, progressively more powerful ships.
You will need to save all your space dollars and dimes if you want to survive on the harder levels. The pace of acquisition, however, can be a little slow, and for less patient gamers this may cause quite a bit of frustration. Personally, I love a game that makes you work for your reward. The aliens come flying into formation, which gives you time to eliminate them before they can launch their offensive, but as you progress their number will grow and the amount of damage new units can absorb will increase. While your little transport can take a hit or two, you will need to employ tactics to ensure that you use your power-ups at the latest possible stage or risk being blown to smithereens as the waves continue their relentless advance.
The controls are pretty simple, with the player only needing to place a finger or thumb on the screen in order to navigate the incoming missiles and kamikaze aliens looking to ruin your run. As long as your finger is pressed down it will fire, which is a good thing, because enemies are not sparse and neither is your ammo. Overall, the controls function well, and are very smooth, which is essential in a game where you need to employ Floyd Mayweather style tactics – stick and move kid, stick and move.
Graphics-wise Galactic Nemesis is spot on. The 8-bit pixel art of old is rendered to near perfection and the insectoid aliens are brimming with great variety of color schemes, helping the enemies stand out in the crowd. The background is not a soulless nothingness as is the case with space. Instead it is scattered with asteroids and remnants of satellites and old space stations. The SFX helps transports your ears back to the arcades of yonder year, but sadly, despite there being an option for music, the 80s soundtrack was seemingly inaccessible.
All in all, Galactic Nemesis is a great game to pass the time on your daily commute. Despite its short-comings, I managed to find myself unable to pry my thumb from the screen and managed to blast my way through 24 levels before throwing in the towel. It would have been nice if the game was a little less repetitive and threw in a few curve-balls now and then, but what makes this game great, and something that is missed in many of today’s modern titles, is that it is bloody hard.
Honestly, I tip my hat to anyone that manages to complete it – you must have the thumb of a God and the patience of a saint. In short, if you are a fan of vertical shooters then you will love this game. But if you love Galaga, get the original. Galactic Nemesis is available to download now on iOS devices through the App Store for $1.99.