"Galacide" Review: A Clever Indie Game That Blends Puzzle & Action

What happens when you inject puzzle game elements into an action-packed shoot-em-up? The result is surprisingly good.
"Galacide" Review: A Clever Indie Game That Blends Puzzle & Action

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"X meets Y" is a common formula for indie games, since it's one of the easiest ways to come up with a unique spin on gameplay. The problem is, most of the time the result ends up feeling like the developer mashed a bunch of incoherent ideas together. Combining two genres in a way that makes sense is a hard task to pull off.

Galacide makes it work. Somehow, this game took the diametrically opposed genres of a fast-action shoot-em-up and sit-and-think color-match puzzler... mixed them together in a cauldron... and gave us a strange concoction that's actually quite fun.

My review unit was provided for free, but my opinions are my own and haven't been influenced in any way.

The Good

At heart, Galacide is a shoot-em-up game

The genius of Galacide resides in just a handful of simple gameplay mechanics that mesh well together, resulting in a sum that's greater than the individual parts.

At heart, Galacide is a side-scrolling shoot-em-up: enemies come from the right and you blast them to bits. But the first twist is that every blasted enemy drops a piece of scrap in one of three colors (orange, blue, or purple). You can pick these up, which is important because...

...the second twist is that your pathway through each level is obstructed by colored structures. You can launch picked-up scrap at these colored structures and destroy them—but only if you can match-four or higher.

Color-matching brings a twist to shoot-em-up gameplay

There's a third twist, which I feel is the salt that really brings the gameplay of Galacide to life: you can change the color of a structure by directly touching scrap to it (rather than launching it from afar). Furthermore, your ship temporarily acts like a scrap of the same color when you do this, allowing you to bridge gaps and create bigger match combos. This one mechanic adds a lot more depth to the puzzle-solving aspect of the game, which paves the way for smart puzzle designs.

And there are four playable ships with their own special abilities, which can twist the gameplay even further (albeit in minor ways). For example, the Miner ship can pull in scrap with a tractor beam while the Phase ship can move through structures.

Galacide campaign can be played cooperatively

In addition to the campaign story mode, which can be played single-player or cooperative with up to 4 players, Galacide offers a Puzzle Mode and an Endless Mode. These are pretty self-explanatory: Puzzle Mode is a series of increasingly difficult puzzles (no shoot-em-up action at all) while Endless Mode is a series of increasingly difficult shoot-em-up levels where you're aiming for high scores.

What's most impressive to me is that I'm not a huge fan of either shoot-em-ups or match-puzzle games, yet I found Galacide quite fun. It strikes a great balance in hybridizing the two genres, providing a fun experience for those who aren't so good at either.

The Bad

Hybrid shoot-em-up/puzzle action in Galacide

Perhaps the biggest problem with Galacide—and it's really a problem for any game that tries to be "X meets Y"—is that it won't appeal to hardcore shoot-em-up fans or hardcore puzzle fans. Hybridizing, by nature, results in a more casual experience.

If you're looking for high-octane bullet-hell action that'll get your heart thumping, Galacide is not that game. If you're looking for a brain-crushing puzzler experience with dozens of puzzles that get deeper and deeper, Galacide is not that game. And, ironically, die-hard fans of both genres will probably be most bored by Galacide.

Puzzle Mode in Galacide

My other big complaint about Galacide is its shockingly short campaign story, which is only six levels long. When I killed the end boss, I honestly felt like the story was just beginning—only to scratch my head as the credits scrolled by. Perhaps this points to weak dialogue, which made me think there was something bigger at play. Or a weak story overall; in hindsight, there wasn't much of a narrative at all.

Still, only six levels? Sure, they each have multiple difficulty levels so you can replay them, but that doesn't change much. I was actually interested in learning more about the enemies, why they were doing what they were doing, and how it affects the greater galaxy! Then again, is it wrong to expect a deep story out of a shoot-em-up puzzler?

Maybe that's on me.

The Verdict

For its retail price of $15, Galacide is a solid buy. If you can spot it on sale, it becomes a must-buy—as long as you adequately enjoy both shoot-em-up and puzzle games. You don't have to be a massive fan of either genre, though, since the hybridized gameplay of Galacide offers enough of a twist to feel like its own thing.

As for me? I can see myself turning to Galacide whenever I want a quick 15-minute filler session, and that's why I'll be keeping this game loaded on my Nintendo Switch for the foreseeable future.

4 5 0 1
Shoot through waves of enemies while using their scraps to solve color-matching puzzles that block your way.
Shoot through waves of enemies while using their scraps to solve color-matching puzzles that block your way.
Total Score
The Good
  • Great balance of action and puzzle elements
  • Endless Mode and Puzzle Mode satisfy players that favor action or puzzle gameplay
  • Clever mechanics allow for smart puzzle design
  • Beautiful graphics that are easy enough to read during chaotic moments
The Bad
  • Main story campaign is shockingly short
  • Gameplay may not be deep enough for hardcore shoot-em-up or puzzle fans
  • Bland and forgettable background music