As a child of the ’80s, arcade games were a major part of my childhood. Quarter munchers could be found all over town: the pizza place, the skating rink, the local diner, even some grocery stores. I was always looking for a quarter just for a couple minutes of entertainment. Because of this, arcade games have a special place in my heart. I jumped at the chance to play Galacticon, a modern day arcade game from Radin Games.
Cool Story Brah
Like most arcade games, the story here is fluff. It just gives the player a reason for the objectives. For Galacticon, it might be better to ignore the story because it barely relates to the gameplay. Apparently humans have taken over multiple planets and an intergalactic council has called upon a bounty hunter (Galacticon) to fix the problem. The story didn’t make sense to me, but you know what? It’s an arcade game. The story doesn’t really matter. The strength of an arcade game is based on its gameplay.
I’ve Got Next
Players control Galacticon, shooting down what looks like prison transports and other enemies while collecting humans and placing them into holding cells for transport back to Galacticon’s ship. However, the strategy needed to obtain high scores is a tad more complex than classic games from the 80s. It’s not as simple as just avoiding obstacles to get to the goal, or surviving a wave of attacking enemies. Each enemy destroyed earns points in typical arcade fashion, but the big scores come from capturing the humans. Scores ramp up significantly for the number of humans simultaneously deposited into a container and bonus points are awarded based on the type of humans in the containers.
The Evolution of Arcade
The humans belong to one of three factions (red, blue or grey). More points are awarded for the number of humans of the same type in the container provided they all live. The red and blue humans aren’t very friendly with one another. An imbalance between the red and blue humans can result in one of the humans dying which means no bonus point are awarded for that container. To make things a little trickier, the grey humans can be persuaded to join either the red or blue side which may also create an imbalance, but whose side they are on isn’t discovered until the bonus points are calculated. An example of this can be seen in the extended gameplay video below.
The scoring process is explained in the pre-game intro, but it is possible to play the game without ever seeing this screen. Had this been released as a physical arcade game, all of that information would have been added to the cabinet. Instead, this information is hidden three screens into the pre-game intro. It would have been better to display this screen right after the player presses the start button.
A Classic Mash-up
Galacticon is oozing with references to classic arcade games which greatly raises the nostalgia factor. The basic gameplay is a mashup of several different arcade games of the early 80s. Galacticon pays homage to Joust in multiple ways. Each level contains floating platforms, and the movement of Galacticon is reminiscent to the ostriches. Thankfully movement doesn’t rely on a flap button, although that can be incorporated by using one of the various control schemes. Careful observers may see another reference to Joust when Galacticon lands on the platforms. There are also some references to Defender and Asteroids that are easily noticed. The end of the bonus levels reminded me of the spider levels in Tron as Galacticon dodges enemies trying to enter the ship, and I think I even heard some music samples from Donkey Kong. Arcade aficionados will likely find even more easter eggs hidden in the game.
If someone told me that Galacticon is a lost design that somebody found in an archive, I wouldn’t be surprised given how much it resembles an early 80s arcade game. Galacticon doesn’t try to be anything other than an arcade game. The gameplay harkens back to a time when video games could be played with a joystick and a single button. It is simple enough for anyone to pick up and play, and the complexity of the scoring promotes strategic choices for high scores instead of relying solely on skill. This gives Galacticon more depth than a traditional arcade game. Arcade games aren’t necessarily made for long term play sessions, and Galacticon is no different. After playing for 20 – 30 minutes, I was ready to move on to something else for the time being but eager to return another time to chase high scores once more. For those that love arcade games, Galacticon deserves to be part of your library. Maybe one day we will see Galacticon get its own cabinet and sit among its older relatives in the comfort of the nearest barcade.