With a name that generically unremarkable – the John Smith of video game naming – Galaxy Warfighter has set itself up to be as forgettable as possible, lost in the noise of a hundred other shmups vertical or horizontal, good or bad. Half the time playing it, I couldn’t remember its name. You could be forgiven for not having this shmup on your radar.
A shmup for the uninitiated is a shoot-em-up for people who think that one abbreviation is still far too many letters. This was before the days when shoot-em-up came to mean a first-person shooter like Call of Duty. Once FPS shooters came on the scene, shoot-em-up was shortened still further to shmup (a sigh of relief from those abbreviators) and came to mean the particular horizontal or vertical scrolling shooter of old. Unnecessary really, because we no longer call FPS games shoot-em-ups anyway.
The shmup market used to be a big deal in the arcades with the likes of Cave in the late nineties, early 2000s pushing out some of the best examples of the genre ever made such as Dodonpachi, Mushihime-sama (Bug Princess) and Death Smiles. Before then it was a staple of every gaming library, with classic verticals like Raiden, Battle Garegga, Gun Bird and the original that started them all, Space Invaders. There were horizontals like R-type, Gradius and Darius all of which are the spiritual granddaddies of Galaxy Warbird and what it wishes to be. Now the shmup is a relic, rarely ever making headway in the industry. Instead its relegated to mobile app bullet-hells (where there are more bullets on screen than at an NRA convention), one-man indies available for free with microtransactions or 99p a pop for a few die-hards who still want that shmup fix and are sorely disappointed by most of today’s offerings.
Gravity Warbiter is a horizontal shmup, right-facing. You launch out of your 8bit pixel hangar in your single ship equipped with a single gun, and you face off against waves of enemy vessels coming in from the right-hand side of the screen. It isn’t a bullet-hell either, you can kill most enemies before they even enter the screen, let alone get a chance to shoot you. Most enemies have to get at least halfway across the screen before they have the guts to take a pot-shot, so dodging is very simple, especially early on. You collect large pixelated green coins from every enemy your mow down, and collect these by flying into them. I like to imagine there is a dwarf in a spacesuit, hanging off the side of my ship with a big magnet, hoovering up all the money with dollar signs in his eyes.
That’s about it, especially to begin with. Of course, things do get a bit faster and a bit harder. More enemies, too much for your one little laser to tackle, and eventually you get overwhelmed. And then you die, but it’s cool; you are only back in the pixel hangar, where you can spend your swirly green coins on more guns to add to your ship, armour to take more hits, drones (which are just another gun on a little hover drone circling your ship), shields and a few one-off powerups. Your next run is that much easier because of what you bought. What’s nice is there is no permadeath mechanic, so from the hangar you can launch straight back into whatever mission number you have completed. This is really good because the first few missions are so dull, why would I want to play them again. At least with progress comes a little more variety.
That said it is only the bare minimum. Graphics are sort of 8bit with a bit of 16bit. Sort of quaint and nice, they don’t hurt to look at, but the enemy design is poor, and so the graphics just get dull and samey very fast. Most ships look a bit like a handheld dyson that’s been decorated by a hungover sneaker customizer. This is not the H.R Giger-like designs of R-type, or the eye-popping feast that the Cave games are. This is very simple. You will fight the same hordes over and over and it will take until mission ten to even get a fourth basic enemy type. Plus by that point I had rinsed through the three different boss types three times each. Its almost the same music in every mission and I’m pretty sure the same two-four backgrounds slid past mocking me on every run.
With a stunning lack of variety, Galaxy Waveracer makes up for this short-coming with filler. There are a couple hundred missions to complete, each getting progressively harder and more filled with enemy bullet fodder. There are a few new enemy types coming in, and a few new bosses as you go, but there is a serious lack of content within. Two hundred dull and lifeless levels of the same enemies over and over pales beside something like Bug Princess, with just five stages, but those five stages each have dozens of enemy types, memorable bosses, beautiful graphics, and a roaring soundtrack.
This is a simple game with a simple mission with only the bare minimum of content to keep you playing. Usually, even the simplest games are at least polished in one particular way or another with either beautiful graphics, or some interesting gameplay gimmick to keep you coming back. Galactic Warfighter has no unique selling point. It is as generic as its name suggests.
Galaxy Warfighter is available on PC (review platform) and Nintendo Switch
Publisher: JoyBits Ltd
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we received a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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