Galaga Special Edition for Android review: A huge disappointment to Galaga fans

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Galaga Special Edition adds a Challenges menu that provides a nice break from some otherwise repetitive gameplay.

The Bad The game barely resembles its iconic arcade predecessor. Performance issues sometimes cause freezes.

The Bottom Line Whether you're yearning for some '80s arcade action or shopping for a new-school top-down shooter, Galaga Special Edition is a disappointment.

Free

6.4 Overall
  • Installation and Setup 10.0
  • Features and Support 6.0
  • Interface 6.0
  • Performance 6.0

Galaga Special Edition for Android may sound like a retro enthusiast's dream come true, but it's not. This "Special Edition" free download fails to deliver on its name and also has quite a few disappointing imperfections.

One thing we can all remember about playing the original Galaga standup arcade game was its uniquely frustrating fixed-shooter style of gameplay. The game allowed you to move left and right, but not forward or backward. Meanwhile, enemies would come swirling in from the sides and top of the screen and eventually settle into a battle formation in the center, where you could then pick them off with your ship's puny gun.

Galaga Special Edition for Android, on the other hand, has very little in common with this fading memory that many of us share. In that sense, it fails at perhaps its most important objective: to drum up old memories of an arcade favorite. Let's face it, no one is downloading Galaga Special Edition purely for its new-school shoot-em-up action. People want it for its nostalgia factor, and in that department, it disappoints.

To start, your spaceship sits at the bottom of the screen with its guns pointing upward, similar to the original game. However, you can now move up and down as well as left and right. Also, your primary weapon is a sort of three-way cannon, rather than the iconic puny shooter that frustrated so many of us. The newfangled cannon is, as expected, easier to aim, but again, it is a huge departure from the original game. There's also a sort of companion pod that can be deployed to assist you in your shooting. I found this pod difficult to use, and even useless, as it sometimes shot in unpredictable directions.

What does carry over from Special Edition's predecessor, however, is its storyline; it still pits you, a space fighter pilot, against an army of "insectoid aliens" swarming out of hyperspace. These aliens fly in formation all over your screen, and no longer settle in the center the way they once did in the '80s. Some might enjoy this scheme, but again, it's an utter disappointment for anyone who loved Galaga. Personally, I would've enjoyed this updated game much more if Namco had leveled up the graphics and weapons, but left the gameplay and iconic elements as close to the original as possible.

One addition that is nice, though, is the Challenges menu. Here, you can take a break from the often repetitive play of the main game to try your hand at mini challenges that pit you against different formations of enemies.

One complaint that many players (including myself) have is Galaga Special Edition's ads. The game serves up full-screen pop-up ads between every level and the "No Thanks" button is often obscured by the much more prominent "Free" button. Also, the game has some performance issues; I experienced freezes on different devices.

Overall, Galaga Special Edition for Android doesn't have enough in common with its arcade ancestor to earn its famous name. So, if you're looking for nostalgia, you might feel duped upon download. Apart from this, the game just isn't fun enough to warrant the 35MB of space it requires to install.

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