What’s the best way to commemorate the 30th anniversary of one of the most influential game series around? If you’re Namco, it’s apparently slapping together a half-baked, overpriced iPhone collection. Even though Galaga 30th Collection features four classic arcade shooters, awkward controls and high priced in-app purchases make this far from an ideal celebration of all things Galaga.
Let’s get one thing straight: even though it’s labelled as a collection, downloading Galaga 30th doesn’t initially net you all four titles. Instead, the free download comes with Galaxian, the first game in the confusingly titled series, at no cost. But to access the other three (Galaga, Gaplus, and Galaga 88) you’ll need to pay. Each game is a few dollars on its own, or you can get all three bundled together for $8. On a platform where you can get incredible, new experiences for one dollar, $8 is a steep price for ports of three decade-old games. And they’re not even good ports.
The games are, as always, fixed shooters in the Space Invaders mold. You have a ship at the bottom of the screen that can move left to right and fire a space laser, but that’s it. Meanwhile, the top of the screen is full of descending formations of alien ships intent on destroying you. The games themselves remain virtually unchanged from the originals, albeit with a new, still-retro coat of paint and purchasable upgrades. So this means that there’s a steady progression of new ideas as you move from Galaxian to the later games in the series, culminating in Galaga 88.
When the invasion comes, it will come in 8-bit.
The biggest, and worst, change is the addition of touch controls. They’re just awkward. An open strip at the very bottom of the screen lets you control movement by moving a finger back and forth across it, while your fire is controlled by tapping anywhere on the screen. Movement doesn’t feel precise, and your firing hand will invariably block the screen at some point, which is a problem when that screen is teeming with murderous alien ships.
That said, it’s still Galaga, which means there’s some classic arcade action to be had if you can get past the controls. It’s also surprisingly social. In addition to Game Center leaderboards, there’s also hefty 100 achievements, and you can brag about scores on both Twitter and Facebook. The new visuals make the game look updated but still classic, and there’s even the option to turn on a filter that makes things look even more retro.
The biggest problem with Galaga 30th is the fact that Galaga Remix already exists, and is both cheaper and better. The games in this collection are not at the same level as last year’s iOS remix, yet they cost either the same or more. So unless you’re in desperate need of a Galaga fix and have exhausted all that Remix has to offer, you’re probably better off skipping this supposedly commemorative game.