July 30, 2015 9:10 AM | John Bridgman
It can be very hard to evaluate games that exist outside of your comfort zone. The last 'shmup I played, for example, was Life Force on the NES. I never really got into the genre, and because of that I don't have a grasp of the more intricate mechanical aspects of the genre. On the other hand, I quite enjoy colour matching puzzle games. To my surprise, there exists a game that combines these seemingly distant genres. Galacide, by Puny Human, which recently left Early Access and is now on full release, is that game.
This rather unique combination takes some getting used to, but the introductory level guides you through the quirks of the mashup nicely, though at times it can feel a bit slow. Still it's useful to give you a good handle on the controls, because the game gets intense quickly. You have to learn to manage shooting and dodging your enemies while collecting bits to match up against obstacles and in doing so removing them. You can't collect bits while you're shooting, and until you release the bit you're holding, you can't shoot, so you need to constantly adjust your attention between the enemies and the obstacles in front of you.
While not visually spectacular, the game has a fair amount of bright, colourful detail to it. Your ship is rather large, though it has a much smaller hitbox, which I assume 'shmup fans will appreciate, as it makes dodging projectiles easier. And there can be a lot of projectiles on screen, especially during boss fights. For someone unfamiliar with the genre, I think this can be a little overhwhelming, especially if you're coming out of curiosity from match games.
The controls are tight and responsive, and it's easy to get yourself accustomed to managing the matching gameplay with the 'shmup part. With a little practice, you begin to flow between the two without much trouble. There are times when you need to focus on one significantly more than the other, and you'll be hindered if you haven't gotten used to it yet. Managing coloured bits and morphing existing obstacles to other colours is difficult to do amidst waves of enemies, but the controls are solid enough that with enough skill you can do so confidently.
In addition to the campaign mode, there's a puzzle mode. It forgoes the 'shmup aspect and gives you a colour matching puzzle game in space. Which is pretty good, all things considered. The match game's mechanics in it are strong enough that they've created some solid puzzles, and you'll need to plan carefully to clear each level. The challenge from level to level in the puzzle mode definitely ramps up fairly quickly,
As for replayability, the game offers a few ships you can unlock, each with unique abilities and stats to use in the campaign mode. There are also three difficulty levels to play through, and there's co-op multiplayer with up to four players as well. While I never got the chance to try the co-op, there are instances where I feel the game might get a little too crowded with a full compliment of players.
I'm not a 'shmup player. The genre has always seemed a bit too intense for me to really get into, and it seems like it's focused on high-energy gameplay with tight reflexes, which don't suit my style as a player. By combining this with matching gameplay, though, Puny Human have created a game that has got me interested enough in a 'shmup to keep playing it for a while, and that's quite the accomplishment. I don't know if the shooting is enough for dedicated 'shmup fans to keep engaged, but I recommend Galacide to anyone looking to give the genre a more approachable try. The puzzle mode I think is sufficient enough to be appealing to fans of other colour matching games, so there's a little something here for everyone.