Enter Glorkian Warrior: Cracker Collector.
Or Glorkian Warrior: Alien Dance Party.
Glorkian Warrior has you as the titular Glorkian Warrior with your trusty sentient laser-spewing backpack batting incoming swarms of aliens. Think Galaga and Moon Patrol combined with modern-day mobile sensibilities.
Featuring the art style of James Kolchalka (don’t worry I had to look him up too, but he is a pretty excellent artist) the game immediately grabs you with its vibrant and exciting color choices and just as unique character personalities. From what I understand this is the culmination of a 2010 Kickstarter project with Pixeljam Games (creators of the PC darling indie game Dino Run) and the love for the project shows in every pixel. It is really hard to put your finger on exactly what does it, but the game just feels polished and loved, and that’s a good thing. The package as a whole is solid.
When you take Glorkian Warrior piece by piece, it doesn’t quite stand up so well, and even the premise gets old after a few dozen attempts at beating your highest score. The strange thing is I keep coming back to the game a day or three after getting bored. Then I put it down again, then I pick it up. This tells me they did something right and the combinations of tropes and gaming habits just work really well, or they are using some Glorkian drugs that wear off after a couple of days making me need to play just one more game to get my fix….be right back.
So as I was saying before having to get another hundred crackers, the mechanics come together surprisingly well when they are really nothing new. You gain unlockables by collecting a certain amount neon “crackers” that fall to the ground, so even if you have a bad run (like the one I just had a few minutes ago) you still make a bit of progress towards your next threshold. Normally I prefer to choose my unlockables, but considering the insanity some of the unlockables bring to the game, it works. You occasionally are assigned challenges at the beginning of a level, and they range from the impossible, the extraordinarily easy, to the insane, like holding your breath while you play or bouncing a basketball 10 times in a game.
Then the controls. You only can move left and right in typical Galaga/Galaxian tradition and jump, which usually gets you into more trouble than it is worth. Shooting is constant and automatic which adds a level of depth that surprised me, since you have to time your movements to avoid getting hit by alien projectiles but still destroying the aliens whizzing by and collecting crackers and power-ups. The controls are adequate, but after playing with the three control modes offered, I settled on digital control pad style, but kept dreading the going too far to the left side of the screen since my thumb covers most of my character. This may be unavoidable but it really made me wish for MFi controller support. Maybe that will be in a future update. The other control options are using the edges of the screen to direct your Glorkian Warrior, and swiping either thumb up to jump and a flipped digital dpad where the right thumb controls movement. Neither of those fit me, but at least the options are there. Options are a good thing, and too many games forget that.
The sound work stood out for me, which was intentionally retro, with 80’s arcade beeps and bloops, but the addition of less than exuberant children yelling “DOUBLE LASER!” or “CRACKER MAGNET” when you pick up some power ups really added a surprising charm that makes me smile every time I hear those voices.
The game is hard. Maybe it is the accuracy in movement demanded by the game or maybe because I am just terrible at reacting, it really is difficult. I never felt overwhelmed but I did feel that I was always on the cusp of getting that higher score, just to be dashed by an errant tetromino. The unlockables often actually make the game more challenging, so just when you think you “get it” the game throws a curve-ball in the form of asteroids for that round, then forgets about it until you suddenly are pelted with asteroids again a few games later.
So while you are attempting to save the universe in a constant cycle of dying then trying yet again to defeat neverending swarms of alien enemies, just remember to put it down once in a while, but don’t delete it. You will want to play again.