Review: Galaga Legions DX (Xbox Live)


Both Steve and I went "oooh!" when we saw that Galaga had been released over Xbox Live last week, but I managed to get first dibs on the review. Which is a shame, because after that one moment of interest and excitement, it was downhill from that moment on for Namco's attempt at a 21st century arcade shooter.

Author: Namco Bandai Games

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Galaga Legions DX

Let's get something clear first. This is not Galaga. If you were expecting a faithful reproduction of the thirty year old arcade classic then you need to look elsewhere. To be fair there are one or two moments when the enemy craft were flying that could have been inspired by one of the flight patterns in the arcade original, but I suspect I'm looking too hard to find any similarities.

Once I got over this, I was hoping that at least the idea of Galaga - a challenging but rewarding arcade shooter - would remain. Unfortunately not. Legions DX just feels wrong on almost every level. Not hugely wrong, just a tiny shade away from being good, but these all add up to make for a poor experience.

Galaga Legions DX

It's admirable that the designers have gone with a landscape orientation to try and be different, but it doesn't really work here. With so many enemies on the screen, and both they and your ship being rather large in terms of pixel size, it just feels like a crushed screen. You can joke about playing through a letterbox, but it's not that far from the truth.

This is compounded by the formations employed by the enemy. They can take up two third of the available vertical space, cramping the view and your options to fly and avoid incoming fire. Overlaying the view is a bezel effect showing scores and lives remaining, which again adds to the cramped feeling of the game.

Galaga Legions DX

You could argue that tough enemy formations are part of the game, but there's a point where challenging gameplay becomes annoying design choices. Legions DX passes that point not that long into the first level.

What else is upsetting me... how about the collision detection on your bullets? They're almost as tall as your craft, but rather than show half of a bullet impacting on an enemy craft, if the whole bullet cannot be displayed then it's simply not shown, leading to an unsettling gap between the ordnance and the target. That's just sloppy coding and graphical work, but it's indicative of the quality on show throughout Legions DX.

Then there's the control system. A quick bit of explanation here, you actually have two control systems. Under the left thumb you have a directional control stick, which, thanks to the slow movement speed of your craft, feels horribly unresponsive. Over on the right hand side of the screen you have a controller that allows you to fire a choice of two weapons in one of eight directions from a second satellite craft that is paired up with your main ship. A nice idea, but it takes up far too much space and just makes it even easier to die through an impact with other craft or incoming fire.

This new firepower style is an interesting twist over the original, but again the controls are both sluggish to respond and very hard to be accurate with. To be fair there's not a lot of choice when going with a dual-stick controller option on a touch screen, but some games have implemented a system that works well and feels right. That's not the case here. Legions DX technically has a working control system, but it's not one that makes for fun gameplay.

Galaga Legions DX

One other issue on the controls - you need to place two hulking great big thumbs over the screen in the exact same areas you'll need to fly through or watch over while playing the game. I'd say that almost a quarter of the gameplay areas is either completely covered up or obscured. When there's so little space to work with, having to cover up even more of it just to play is ridiculous.

I'm sure that the Galaga name will help in the marketing, search engines and recognition, when people are browsing the Windows Marketplace, but it still feels like a huge cheat by Namco to get people into their shooting game that costs an eye-watering $6.99 / £5.49.

Honestly? Download Shoot 1UP at £2.29 instead of this, because the design decisions render Galaga Legions DX a poor game, and a pale shadow of its titular inspiration.

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