Destructoid review: Galax-e-mail

There is no shortage of twin-stick shooters wherever you go, especially when it comes to downloadable titles. Their relatively undemanding specifications make them easy candidates for quick downloads, and the simplicity of the formula serves as a great starting point for budding developers.

As I have said many times during the course of these Community Game reviews, however, it takes more than sticking to standards in order for a title to stand out among all the other “me too” games. This is the challenge facing Galax-e-mail, and every other shooter out there. 

Does Galax-e-mail have what it takes to stand out, or is it just another in a hail of identical bullets? Read on to find out.

Galax-e-mail (Xbox 360 Community Games)
Developed by BogTurtleCarl
Released on December 12, 2008
Costs 200 MS Points
Read more about our Community Games Review Challenge

Galax-e-mail brings a few differences to the shmup table from the outset. Each randomly generated stage sees you take charge of a little delivery ship that must collect an email from a wormhole. The aim is to take your mail-carrying ship around each stage, destroying a number of enemy bases until another wormhole appears, into which you deliver the mail.

It’s a simple concept, but there is plenty to help complicate matters. The enemy bases, which take quite a pounding before destruction, spew out a number of vicious enemies, and there are natural disasters to avoid, such as meteors and tornadoes, which spin you violently around before sending your ship sprawling into the distance. There are also nasty powerdowns, such as slow speed and confusion, which reverses the controls in a classic, yet always infuriating, dick move. 

Luckily, you get plenty of backup in the form of buddies. Buddies can be collected as you destroy enemy bases are a rather swanky life system. During play, they serve as extra ships that follow you around and mimic your actions, but should you die, you’ll get to take a buddy over and continue playing. It’s game over once you run out of buddies. Death also means having to recollect your email, which will have whizzed far away by the time you possess a new buddy. 

There are powerups as well as powerdowns. The double shot sends two streams of bullets, while an auto-aim lets your fire always hit its mark. My favorite is the swarm power, which makes your buddies more aggressive than normal. Abilities will be stacked once collected, and it can be quite exhilarating to have an army of buddies affected by swarm, with homing doubleshot bullets. Unfortunately, the same is true for powerdowns as well, so be careful. 

One of the best features about Galax-e-mail is its difficulty, which you can set from the very beginning between 1 and 100. If you set a lower difficulty, the game will gradually increase its challenge. You are also asked after each stage how tough you felt the stage was, either stating that it was “just right” or selecting a number of responses declaring how easy it was. There is no option to say a level is too challenging.

And challenging this game will get. While hardened shmup veterans will relish the fight, those of us like me who are intimidated at the mere mention of the word Ikaruga will be humiliated if we get too brave and feel like jumping from 10 to 50 in a heartbeat. However, with 100 levels to choose from, a bit of tweaking will find the right amount of challenge to satisfy anyone. It’s been implemented really well and deserves a lot of praise. 

While Galax-e-mail doesn’t push the XNA’s limits in any way, shooter veterans are sure to appreciate the retrocentric graphics, which have more than a whiff of Galaga about them. The aesthetic of the game is firmly planted in the old school, and it suits the gameplay well. Anything more flashy or psychedelic could detract from the shooting. 

At a mere 200 Points, Galax-e-mail packs enough gameplay to more than justify its cost. If you’re in the mood for some back-to-basics shooting with a few cheeky new adjustments and a difficulty level tweaked to perfection, then this is definitely a game for you. It won’t be for everybody, but it’s earned its place. 

Score: 8 — Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won’t astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)

Jim Sterling