The first thing I noticed when I started up Galactic Alliance was the music: it was ear-splitting, I found it annoying at first, but further thought eerily proved that it was similar to the styles of music that used to fill the arcades of my youth, the kind of sound that's like a bird call to all gamers, you can't quite put your finger on why but you're drawn towards it. Entranced. Enthralled. Your money already half-way out of your pocket. The music isn't bad, it's just a little unexpected. I can imagine it working well on a Microsoft Surface which looks a little bit more like an arcade machine, but here it just seems a little out of place - startling and overly loud.
You're not here to hear about the music though, you want to know how it plays. The TL;DR answer is that it plays well, the long answer is a little more complicated. From the moment you press play to the moment you either win or lose, you're expected to destroy a steady stream of enemy ships. You do this by placing down one of four types of space stations, destroying enemy ships in order to gain money, which you then use to either buy more space stations or upgrade the ones you've currently got on the playing field. That's the simple part out of the way, the more complicated part is that the game has a tendency, especially on the later levels, to hide some of the more powerful spaceships' sprites underneath the easy ones. There was more than one occasion when I thought that a wave was going to be hilariously easy to overcome only to find that a heavily shielded enemy ship was hiding beneath some of the easy ones; worse still, it was heading strong-willed towards its goal. The easiest way to overcome this threat is to use space stations to create a channel, forcing the enemy to weave up and down (use all the space you have, don't leave any gaps). This increases the amount of time you have to destroy enemies because, thanks to your channels, they will now be investing extra time (in essence) trying to find their way out of the maze. It's a classic tower defense strategy, and it stays true with Galactic Alliance. This leads me on to the slightly more complicated part of the gameplay. Just like any other good strategy game, there are little nuances in the mechanics that can make any decision you make a win-or-lose decision. You could decide to place a space station in a very specific position, in attempt to force an enemy one direction, when in fact it forces it the other way - into an undefended area of the map (and without luck, you'll have no money to do so rapidly). You're screwed. Simple as that. If it all gets a little bit too much for you, you could always leave your friends to defend themselves with Galactic Alliance's nifty little drop-in-drop-out feature. Which keeps any of the space stations your friends have placed down in the game but stops them from earning any more cash.
In terms of the looks of Galactic Alliance, it was a breath of fresh air to see a game not trying so hard to be visually stunning. In a world where the best-looking games look like Infinity Blade, if you can't at least match that kind of visual appeal then there's no point even trying, you might as well spend that development time concentrating on making the game play as well as possible. Vectorform did just that. The cartoon-styled sprites look good on the smaller screen, I can't imagine them looking as crisp on the Microsoft Surface but here they're fine, and they also help to maintain the “all-access” appeal of the game. More or less anybody can pick it up and feel at home, whether you're someone who's played video games for the last 30 years or if this is your first. Everyone's going to enjoy the graphics, young to old.