We love a good shoot-em-up, so when the developer of Galaxy Defense Force HD got in touch to say his latest game was something a little bit different, we had to check it out. It’s a good thing the game was pointed out, because the title is a little generic and we probably would have passed it by under normal circumstances. That would have been a shame, as Galaxy Defense Force HD is a great little game.
Let’s get the plot out of the way. You’re a member of Earth’s defense force, and must fight off an invading alien horde. Should you fail, Earth will be eaten by a giant, tentacled beast. Well, it doesn’t say that in the blurb, but we bet that’s what will happen. Right, so far, it’s nothing we’ve not heard before.
The difference comes when you get into the game. It’s not a vertical or side-scrolling affair, where avoiding the scenery is as important as destroying the enemy, and instead takes its inspiration from games like Asteroids rather than R-Type. Your ship is fixed in the centre of the screen, and consists of three separate craft, each of which has its own weaponry. If you get hit, you lose one of your craft, decreasing your firepower. Lose all three sections, and it’s game over.
Enemies invade from all sides of the screen, but your ship can rotate through 360 degrees, and the multiple guns mean you can target more than one nasty at once. Controlling your ship is simple. There’s a vertical scroll bar on the side of the screen, which you slide your finger over to rotate the craft. It’s a clever mechanic, and reminiscent of Peggle’s aiming system.
Galaxy Defense Force HD’s enemies vary quite a lot, and each has an energy bar showing how much it needs to be shot before blowing up. As you’d expect, some need more attention than others, and it’s here where strategy comes into play. Many of the enemies also move at a different pace, so it’s important to shoot in the right direction at the right time. Selecting which one to shoot first makes the game frantic and exciting when the screen is full, but it can also become a little frustrating. One particular alien ship, which is shaped like a buzzsaw blade, has no fixed path, and takes forever to kill, all the while homing in on you. Yes, we like a challenge, but this one is too annoying, and feels a little like it’s there to kill you off quickly.
Why would this happen? The game relies on gems to upgrade weaponry and shields. Gems can be earned by playing the game, but you can also buy them using real money. Thankfully, the game doesn’t force you into buying gems, but it would undoubtably speed things along if you do pay up. Each ship has three upgradeable parameters: guns, shields, and bombs. Max them out to four levels on each, and a new ship is unlocked. It’s also possible to pay for all the ships in one go, but this does take some of the fun out of playing.
Galaxy Defense Force HD is an addictive little shooter, which embraces its simplicity and takes the genre in a pleasing new direction. There’s just the right amount of emphasis on the in-app purchases, but it’s still entirely possible to enjoy the game without paying anything at all. This is a system we like, because it rewards both the patient and impatient. If we had any complaints, we’d say the control slider could do with a tweak to increase its accuracy, and while the retro-style graphics are good, we’d prefer a little more detail on our ship.
The game is available for the iPhone and Android, and we’ve been playing it on the brand new LG G3, on which it ran perfectly. The game is free to download, and universal on iOS. Whether you’re a fan of shoot-em-up games or not, this is an addictive game you’ll return to often.