Review by Retro
Reviewed: 04/19/01 | Updated: 05/20/03
They can FLY!
What was up with all those developers making video games in which you control a ship or cannon of sorts at the bottom of the screen and move it left and right to shoot down legions of aliens that never run out of stock? The more I think about it, the more I think that those developers got so damn tired of hearing all these real life people crying out that they'd been abducted by aliens, only to have sexual experiments run on them before they're set back down on earth that they decided to place endless numbers of aliens into the skies to let millions of gamers blast them to shreds.
Don't get me wrong, I love the simplistic, but fun genre of space shooting. Galaga is one of my favorite arcade games of all time, and I've always been a huge fan of many of the Atari 2600's space shooters, such as Space Invaders and Asteroids. But, whether in arcades, on the Atari 2600, etc., I've never been too big on Galaxian. I find it to be a Space Invaders clone with a few minor differences. Not that that's a bad thing, though.
The heroes in Galaxian are clearly much braver than those in Space Invaders. This is seen by the fact that there are no shields present to guard you from the wrath of the aliens' falling firepower. The aliens are also more confident in this game, because there are never any spaceships that scroll across the top of the screen dropping brand new extraterrestrials to replace the dead ones. On top of that, they don't speed up when their whole population is almost extinct either. They know that they'll always come back to life when you defeat each and every nemesis on the screen, and when you start a new game.
The one innovation I do like about Galaxian is how the enemies attack. These ruthless breeds don't care to drop down level by level, or to set foot on the ground. They're not patient enough! Whether by themselves or with a friend or two, these impatient beasts will break away from their family and fly down and across the screen, with their opaque eyes set on nothing but you! You can shoot and destroy them while they're simply marching back and forth, but that's not as fun. It's more challenging and more rewarding (more points!) to wait for them to swoop down at you as they make a cool buzzing sound. The aliens are decently spread apart in several vertical and horizontal columns that combine to form one huge pack. The further up an out of this world nemesis is, the more points it is worth when destroyed. At the very top of the group are two cowardly albino aliens that usually don't fly down at you unless they are accompanied by one or two of their comrades.
Short as it may seem, that's all there is to Galaxian. You just move back and forth shooting as many colorful, detailed enemies out of the atmosphere as you can. The basic-looking playing field which is nothing more than an enclosed brown box with a pitch black starless background will never change either. But you won't notice that as much once you clear out about seven waves of enemies and the action begins picking up. The sound of the constant background beat and the memorable sound effects of an idiotic suicide bomber diving down at you and your ship blowing up in a huge cloud of dust and debris will take your attention away from the mediocre graphics as well.
One glaring flaw that I haven't ever been able to turn my attention away from when it comes to this Atari 2600 version of Galaxian is the lack of nice variations. You can select from nine skill levels, but there are none here to give the gameplay a better variety. I became a spoilt brat from playing Space Invaders for the Atari 2600 long before I ever came upon Galaxian. Space Invaders has 112 variations, which include everything from making the enemies invisible, having enemy fire zigzag as it falls down, and much much more. Galaxian has nothing of the such; you can't even opt to use guided missiles!
But, underneath it all, Galaxian is a worthwhile game. You will be entertained while blasting those aliens and daring them to separate from their pack and glide down at you as if they think they're jets. Big fan of the classic space shooting genre? Get it. Looking to buy only the very best space shooters for your Atari 2600? Look past this one.
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