So which is it? Ga-laga or Gala-ga? How do you pronounce it,
and what does it mean? I had thought that I was the only one to
have that debate in my head. Turns out as I talk with people that
everyone was wondering how to pronounce it, and the debates at
the local arcade in the early 80's were fast and furious. As I've
said in an earlier review, I was hanging out at the Dig Dug
machine - no pronunciation confusion there - but still the Galaga
across the way caught my attention, and the occasion quarter. So
now Hasbro Interactive has gone and released an update of sorts
of Galaga, and opened the whole pronunciation debate can of
worms once again. Personally I'm from the Gala-ga school of
thought, but a guy across the cube farm at work is firmly
entrenched in the Ga-laga camp. Fiercer than the smooth vs.
crunchy peanut butter debate (crunchy, by the way), the battle
lines are drawn. So far we're exchanging only rubber bands and
flaming email, but as soon as my shipment of Serin gas comes in
from a recent Ebay auction, the gloves come off. Let this be our
Whew. Is it just me, or am I working too hard for the jokes here? I
think that stems from the fact that this game annoys the living
bejeezus out of me. From the very first moment that I started it up,
the blocky menu text font and the razzy menu sound effects just
screamed 'Come play me, I'm another low quality remake!' As a
gamer, I was ready to drag the whole mess into the recycling bin
and get on with my life, but as a reviewer, I probably should at
least play it awhile, right?
The game consists of nine stages, each with multiple waves of
alien attackers. Stage 1: The mission: Destroy everything in sight.
I can do that. Wave 1: the game starts out looking much like the
original Galaga, if with jazzed up backgrounds. You're the ship at
the bottom shooting up at formations of aliens at the top. The
aliens, most of which look like insects of some sort, are drawn kind
of 3D with some shading, but they don't flap their wings or
anything and are generally not animated, and there are only a
couple of different alien types. You shoot, and they explode.
Nothing spectacular, just a blip and they're gone - very limited
sound and video effects. Destroying one specific type of alien craft
will sometimes release a shining cube. Catching it temporarily
gives you the ability to capture alien ships with a conic beam
much in the same way that the aliens could capture your ship in
the old arcade game. A captured alien ship adds its firepower to
yours. There are also little ship medallions that you can collect to
replenish your shield. Finally, there are badge-like things (the
game calls them merits), and if you collect enough of them, your
ship gets an improvement. The first improvement I got was thrust,
but I couldn't seem to do anything with it. Not like I could fly off
the bottom of the screen to be closer to the aliens. As a whole, the
game seemed kind of bereft of creative power ups, which is
frequently one of the ways that old arcade games are modified to
make them more interesting than their quarter-guzzling parents.
In the first impressions column, Galaga is failing badly.
Once you finish the first two waves, with you at the bottom and the
aliens at the top, then you move to a different view - the camera
behind you and the aliens out in the distance ahead of you. I
quickly came to call this the ass view, and it first struck me as
among the poorest attempts at 3D-ness that I'd ever encountered.
Aliens get bigger (closer) and smaller (farther away), but you're not
feeling any sense of depth, and it's very difficult to judge distances.
Oy. I've smacked into lots of aliens that I thought were farther
away. The game should come with a "Warning: Aliens are closer
than they appear" sticker to slap across the top of the computer
screen. In the original arcade game collisions with aliens were
fatal, but at least now you have the shield. They give you a
targeting reticle to maybe help you with the depth problem, but it
doesn't work. I can't tell if the aliens are inside or outside the
range of the reticle. Heck, I can't even tell how far the reticle is
away from me! Then suddenly you find yourself out of your ship
and firing some kind of mounted gun. It's so abrupt that it's hard to
make sense of the sudden shift in perspective, and then it's over
very quickly and you're back to the ass view. What the hell was
that? Eventually I'm so tired of looking at my own ass (just had a
flashback to a really strange thing that happened at my senior
prom) that I'm glad that this third wave ends and I'm off to wave
Wave 4 has you at the left side of the screen shooting to the right.
Different from the bottom to the top thing of wave one? Not if you
turn your computer screen on it's side. I've been playing this
arcade game for 10 minutes, and I'm already bored to tears.
Mediocre graphics, very few power ups and alien types, and depth
perception issues; Galaga has just about worn out its welcome.
Then stage 2 rolls around. You spend a lot of time in the ass view,
and you're flying alongside a space station picking up survivor
pods. The space station helps add to the appearance of 3D depth,
and there are more alien types. As a whole, the game starts to
feel a whole lot better. Stage 3 has you on a planet surface
activating water purifiers. In the valleys the 3D perspective is
finally fully realized, and the game almost plays like a modified
version of the trench run in the old Star Wars arcade machine.
The game finally has a good variety of aliens, and some more
power ups have shown themselves. Further stages have you flying
through tubes that are kind of like the old arcade game Tempest,
into small cities around buildings and under bridges, and along
the surface of the sun dodging solar flare columns. The longer you
play this game, the better it gets. The problem is that at heart, this
is supposed to be an arcade game. You know, 5 minutes of
entertainment, and on to something else. This game doesn't even
become worth playing for 10 minutes or so, and if you quit and
restart the game, you can't start on any stage you want to, you
have to start back at the beginning, and all that just pisses me off.
There are two great industry secrets to a successful arcade game.
1) The game should be exciting or interesting to play from the very
first second. 2) The difficulty level should be such that you lose
your quarter (probably $1 today) before you get bored of playing.
Frankly, Galaga: Destination Earth fails on the first, so who the hell
cares if it succeeds on the second. This game could be improved
3000% just by allowing me to skip stages I've already completed
when I start a new game. As it stands, the later stages are fun, but
not worth the tedium of the earlier stages to get there.
[ 22/50 ] Gameplay
[ 06/10 ] Video
[ 04/10 ] Audio
[ 09/10 ] Controls
[ 03/10 ] Plotline
[ 10/10 ] Bugs