Seeing as my roommate keeps depositing guests on the couch, the second round of Galak-Z I’d planned for the evening has been postponed. But since the game’s still fresh in my mind, here’s a list of everything it does wrong. And a few things it does right.
• The character art sucks. I mean, it would be fine if Galak-Z were trying to emulate those pseudo-anime-style Euro-toons that pop up on basic cable from time to time. But it’s not. It’s evoking 1980s anime and failing miserably in the attempt. Seriously, 17-bit, for as unprecedented a move as it may be, hire an artist (or artists) capable of producing assets that actually resemble the source material and patch them in.
• Losing your power-ups at the end of a season is bullshit. Don’t penalize a win, 17-bit...simple as that. People would’ve burned every copy in the street if Gradius had told players, “Hey, great work on that perfect run through stage 1. Now fuck your upgrades...it’s back to basics for stage 2, loser.” There’s no justifiable reason for how Galak-Z handles this, and, for once, the hard-for-the-sake-of-hard crowd needs to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. Keep the power-ups...convert them to cash...I don’t rightly care. But a really hot run through a season shouldn’t be wiped clean. And if that makes a few e-peens limp, tough fucking shit. Go squat on a copy of Battletoads while doing a flawless run through Demon’s Souls.
• Speaking of wiping shit clean. There’s, like, absolutely no records kept of one’s performance during a season. What the actual fuck, 17-bit? Your website goes on ad nauseam about Galak-Z’s arcade legacy. How about reflecting that in the product? Just give us a stat screen modeled after a high-score table. Done and done.
• The game needs to be more than just a roguelike. Again, call it a throwback to the arcade games it was apparently mimicking before 17-bit just up and decided they wanted to make some shitass space-crawler, but having the option to tackle the game level-by-level rather than season-by-season would be a godsend. Alternately, make penalties for a loss less harsh or allow for the aforementioned retention of upgrades. Galak-Z in its present form can be fun, but the singular structure of all risk and no reward makes the whole experience feel hollow. Add in another mode or three which allow for more measured, bite-sized, or compensated play and then you’ve got a game that respects my time, 17-bit.
• The ending credits sequence is amazing - despite the fucked artwork. The inclusion of a facsimiled Captain Gloval was a brilliant touch. Why isn’t there a gallery mode so I can alternately bask in those credits or marvel at just how thoroughly 17-bit missed the mark with their character designs?
• The awesome SNES-style tiling effect utilized for 17-bit’s logo is kinda ruined by the way Galak-Z stutters while it’s chugging through the intro sequence. Patch that shit up to speed, 17-bit.
• The ROM check should be fullscreen. The 4:3 aspect ratio just looks cheesy in the wake of everything else being widescreen.
• The actual mechanics of flying, exploration, and combat are all fun as hell. Otherwise, I would’ve deleted this game after the first perma-death.
• Likewise, the sound design is top-notch. 17-bit actually nailed the aesthetics outside of that character artwork. In fact, the discrepancy between what they got right and wrong in this department is so wide, I’m forced to assume they were working with basically no editorial feedback - however casual - from peers, friends, or even Sony themselves.
• Overall, I like the game a helluva lot more than Hotline Miami. Which is the other 80’s soaked indie darling I tried so very hard to enjoy, despite the fact that the game was - from a mechanical standpoint - just generally broken and fucked. I don’t see myself playing Galak-Z forever, but there’s no creeping feeling of disgust that I’m forced to ignore while thinking about it, either. Since, as I mentioned earlier, movement and combat is actually fun in Galak-Z. God, Hotline Miami fucking sucks.