A synthwave shmup that’s out of this world!
Day 3 of social distancing and my brain is pretty fried.
My backlog full of JRPGs and amazing adventure games beckon, but I’m just not mentally capable of processing any more information right now. I’m overloaded. I’m frazzled. But I’m also in desperate need of a distraction from what’s happening.
Ready for something different than what I’ve been playing recently, I decided to give ExtraGalactica a try. Developed and published by
Digital Yogurt and Ghost Street Games, ExtraGalactica fell into my lap after the team had contacted me to verify a key request sent out by my imposter (it’s a whole thing, you guys). Since I always offer to make amends, as the imposter gets game devs’ hopes up, I said straight away that I’d review ExtraGalactica.
Wow — I’m really, really glad I did.
ExtraGalactica is a shoot ’em up that promises to revolutionize the shmup scene by adding future content spanning genres, such as a platformer and a spaceship landing component. Available on Steam for $14.99, the pricetag includes all current and future content, meaning whatever isn’t there now will automatically be unlocked for players once released for no additional charge. Different? Certainly. Revolutionary? Time will tell, but things are already looking pretty solid.
Our story is centered around Flerp, a college football captain who meanders into his professor’s office at the precise moment a colleague, L.T. Slam, defeats the final boss in a previously deemed unbeatable game. Like something out of The Last Starfighter, a spaceship called the Super G Machine suddenly appears and forces the professor and gamer inside; not wanting to be left behind, Flerp jumps into action to commandeer the Super G Machine, becoming Captain² Flerp (unofficial title but that’s what I’m calling him).
You see, this entire “beating the unbeatable game” thing set off a chain reaction in which a retro arcade game villain named Anode decided now would be the best time to start attacking the planet Celestro. This, of course, is the same Celestro that houses Flerp’s rival team, so he naturally decides to… altruistically come to its rescue?? Also a shape-shifting cat is involved.
Yeah okay, so the storyline is super confusing. I wouldn’t worry about it.
Here’s what I would worry about — each time you start the game, the enemy waves are randomly generated, meaning you’re never playing the same level twice.
That’s right — “randomly generated space battles ensure no two playthroughs of any game mode are the same,” meaning you don’t improve through route memorization, but through legitimate skills. And with enough baddie diversity to keep you on your toes well into your 20th and 30th playthroughs and beyond, ExtraGalactica is definitely already delivering on some of those lofty promises.
Take, for example, the first wave of enemies. Basic spaceships and asteroids aren’t gonna do much damage on paper, but destroy the asteroids and you’ll see a detonator-type item slowly drop down. Defeat it in time and it should disappear completely; however, on some occasions, it will turn into a black hole, swallowing all ships (yours included) in the process. If you decide not to shoot it down, you do so at your own peril, as bullets may start flying out of it every which way, draining your health in an instant if you’re not careful. Quite frankly, there are so many random enemy types it’s hard to keep track — some are small and swoop down at you without notice, some are large bug-like baddies that persist throughout, and don’t even get me started on the bosses, as they’re brutal beings from the pit of bullet hell itself.
Since you’re constantly learning and adapting to the new challenge thrown at you with every restarted round, it stands to reason that the control scheme should be tight to ensure there’s a fighting chance at beating ExtraGalactica; luckily, this is indeed the case, and I’m happy to report that ExtraGalactica is also controller-optimized. My Steam controller was even able to work with this game! After playing both on the Steam controller and the keyboard/mouse, I would recommend trying a controller over keyboard where possible, as everything is just a little easier to maneuver on controller.
The general loop of ExtraGalactica is pretty fun — I found no frustration in dying repeatedly, since it meant I had a chance to try again and hopefully get an easier run. I did find myself wishing that there was some sort of a tutorial, or that skill points carried over from playthrough to playthrough, however, as trying to get 50 skill points all at once to unlock an upgrade that would make the game even a little bit easier would have been welcomed. Additionally, there’s just so much to learn that I was constantly feeling like I was missing how to play, and although there are short video clips you can watch to help explain some of the aspects of ExtraGalactica in the help menu, I feel like I speak for a lot of gamers when I say I learn better by doing instead of watching. The videos helped, but nowhere near how much a quick tutorial would have, showcasing exactly what to do when a certain enemy type arises. Still, I suppose that trial-and-error aspect is part of the charm and definitely hearkens back to that earlier period of gaming ExtraGalactica is already heavily leaning into. In that sense, a tutorial is missed, but not sorely.
As far as graphics go, I was constantly surprised by how fresh it would feel each and every time I got a little better at ExtraGalactica. I honestly felt rewarded each time something new happened, like certain copy appearing in a Synthwave style or the planet in the background moving around. New bullets, new typography, new baddies, new weapons, and new colors all added to the amount of discovery possibly inside ExtraGalactica. In a genre that relies on patterns and timing with a tendency to flirt with repetition to the point of stagnation, ExtraGalactica was fresh, vibrant, dazzling, daring, and creative.
I’ve saved the best for last — the music. That sweet, sweet, Synthwave goodness that pumps directly into your ears and nestles in your brain. It’s distinct enough that you can pick out patterns and predict when the beats are going to drop, giving you that little bit of dopamine boost, but it knows its place as a video game soundtrack in a fast-paced shmup, meaning it doesn’t stick out too much to take all the attention. With my focus desperately needed on the enemies and not the melodies, the music toed that perfect line between catchy and distracting. Synthwave enthusiasts are going to be VERY pleased with the ExtraGalactica soundtrack!
ExtraGalactica is already a fantastic shoot ’em up promising to be so much more. It’s a great game to pick up and play without having to think too deeply — in fact, I recommend against it, as the storyline is far too confusing to follow anyway. Instead, let ExtraGalactica show you how amazing randomly generated levels can be in this genre in a learn as you go setting that will transport you right back to the 80s — if the stellar Synthwave music doesn’t do that for you already, that is. You may need a dozen or so rounds to really get a feel for the gameplay, but once you do, it’s easy enough to waste hours blasting baddies. If you feel brain-drained and need a mental break but still want a fantastic distraction to play the day away, you’d be hard-pressed to find something more dynamic and exciting than ExtraGalactica.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Ghost Street Games; Developer: Digital Yogurt, Ghost Street Games; Players: 1; Released: February 28, 2020; MSRP: $14.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a copy of ExtraGalactica given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.