We’re going into space – but bring your wallet.
Galak-Z: Variant S is a sequel to a PS4 game – Galak-Z: The Dimensional – which was warmly received but didn’t perform quite as well on the sales front. It’s a space exploration adventure which has you piloting your ship, thrusting forward using ZR and battling enemies in different ways depending on your ship.
Levels are short, and if you’re not going after collectible items you can race to the finish in barely a couple of minutes, if that. Enemies offer some resistance and must have their shields broken down before they can be dispatched, and the ultimate aim is to make your way past them until you reach an extraction point at the end of the level, which you must hover over for a certain amount of time for extraction to be completed.
The controls aren’t particularly intuitive, however – though there is no damage for smashing into walls, there’s little you can do to stop your ship careering into hazardous objects, and making it through narrow gaps which shouldn’t be the most difficult task of the game. Having to turn your ship from a top-down view using the control stick is a lot more complex than you’d like, and I found it particularly difficult to avoid sailing past the direction I was planning to go and instead smash into the environment.
There’s a bit of depth involved with upgrades, side-missions involving bot characters, which function as collectibles and bear some kind of a resemblance to GoGos, a kids’ craze of small miniature figures of some ten years ago. There is certainly an addictive collecting element at play here, but it’s a matter of whether the quite simplistic gameplay is enough to get you to stick to the quest of collecting them all. There are a lot of main missions, and that’s a plus, but it just feels a little light; I had to keep reminding myself I wasn’t playing a mobile game. I don’t think this one will stick in the memory.
Switch fans are getting this as a free-to-play title, quite a contract to the $9.99 it cost elsewhere, but there are microtransactions involved, which you can spend on things like continues once you’ve blown all your health (you will naturally return to a battle-ready state after a certain amount of real-time), but it’s certainly not a necessity for completing the game.
But I’m really not in favour of this becoming the norm for digital titles on the console. Fortnite, Paladins, Pokemon Quest and more are now making use of the free-to-start model, and while this may initially seem great as you add another game to your Switch library for zero charge, the collectors will never know how much they’ll have to spend in order to have the complete package. The Switch has been great for inspiring ardent collectors so far, but they mustn’t be taken advantage of.
Galak-Z: Variant S has a little bit of story, but ultimately the gameplay isn’t nearly interesting enough to retain the attention needed to justify all of the in-game purchases which it encourages. We’ve seen other games on the Switch eShop which use the same top-down spaceship exploration gameplay (Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime comes to mind), and those games don’t have the irritation of all the microtransactions at their forefront.