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CarlCastello avatar 3:37 PM on 02.27.2009  (server time)
Retro Roadtrip: Galaga

After inserting your quarter, you’re whisked off to the first level. Floating through space amongst rainbow-coloured stars, “PLAYER 1” flashing on the screen, you feel at peace with the universe.

You don’t get much time to enjoy the tranquility, though. Almost immediately, enemy squadrons wizz into view on screen, amassing in the centre to form one large machine of death. Controlled by a hive mind mentality, they throw everything they have at you with every intention of taking you down in the most effective way possible. With enemy fire coming down like rain, you’ll weave your way through to the endgame.

To help you get there, you’re armed with what appears to be a space-aged harpoon. While the weapon is effective enough, it unfortunately lacks any sort of rapid fire. Which is fine once you get into the game; I find I can get the job down with small bursts of two or three shots, and it adds an extra level of difficulty into the mix.

Galaga offers a few interesting and inventive game mechanics that help make the experience that much more fun. The first one, entitled “Challenging Stage”, appears every three levels as you progress through the game. It consists of small enemy formations doing a singular circuit around the screen, without firing, giving you a chance to shoot all of them down and rack up some excellent bonus points. After acquiring a predetermined set of points, you are rewarded with a free life (20 000 for the first, 60 000 for the second, etc.).

The dual-fighter is the second of these mechanics. It occurs when one of the topmost enemy fighters swoops down and extends a tractor beam that, if you get caught in, hijacks your fighter. The enemy fighter then returns to its position in the formation carrying your fighter in tow and leaving you with one life less than you started with.

It’s not all bad though. If you can manage to shoot down that fighter the next time it comes down to attack, you get your fighter back; not as an extra life, though. You perform what can only be compared to the Fusions from Dragon Ball Z, resulting in you piloting both fighters simultaneously! It adds an extra objective besides getting a new highscore, increasing the replayability dramatically.

While Galaga doesn’t support multi-player online (yet!), that doesn’t inhibit playing with a friend. All it takes is a simple challenge, and the two of you will be competing with each other for the highest score via the solid solo campaign for hours.

What Galaga means to you as a gamer is completely up to you. With a story that’s open to so many personal interpretations, accompanied by such identifiable characters like Unmanned-Insect-Destroying-Spaceship-Sprite No. 1, the possibilities are endless. I strongly recommend this to any gamer, of any culture. Especially those who need yet another reason to argue that games are art.

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