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PAX Prime 2013: Galak-Z hands-on

PAX Prime 2013

17-Bit have become PAX regulars. Several straight shows we dropped by and checked out the highly underplayed Skulls of the Shogun, a stylized turn-based strategy released for Xbox 360 earlier this year and more recently on Steam. It deserved a broader audience and it was readily apparent by last year’s show the studio – then under the name Haunted Temple Studios – were ready to get it out the door. So when we came across their booth at this year’s PAX with a new shmup featured, we had to come by for a chat and play.


“Classic 16-bit feel, moved into the modern space”After their prior deal with Microsoft, this time they’ve gone with Sony. They said it’s a mutual interest that spurred their swap, with Sony contacting them shortly before this year’s E3 presentation to be one of the featured indies brought onto stage. They were thankful for such immediate exposure, especially after a partnership that found their game in a near state of development hell. Of Microsoft’s conference, one developer said it was kind of like watching someone piss their pants on stage. “Kind of feel bad for them but it’s also a bit funny to watch.” And of their decision to split ties with Microsoft, they put it simply, “when you have an abusive girlfriend…”

Their latest title Galak-Z is an interesting turn. It’s been designed to play as a racing title. There’s acceleration and deceleration tied into the ship controls along with a juke move to swerve around obstacles. It plays fast and fluid with a characterized anime look. The aesthetic gives it a unique identity and channels some of the team’s experience working in Tokyo, with the Japan-centric pilot and enemies animating in a distinctively anime way.

17-Bit seem set on distancing themselves from being just another shmup. Not only does it play like a racing thing but they also pointed out the dynamic AI, programmed to react quickly to the player. And it worked well in practice. It wasn’t just spray bullets and hope most of them land, as we had to not only target more directly but outmaneuver enemy ships.

It plays well, if not entirely different from how it looks. The game is still early though, with the developers saying they’re still gathering feedback on how it’s currently playing. The look and feel is suitably unique, playing into the developer’s new name, “we want to create games with the classic 16-bit feel, moved into the modern space.”

They’re absolutely on the right track and no longer secluded to a fickle, niche genre. It would seem that way, creating a shmup, but there are appeals for shooters and racing games built in, and a good chance of broadening the audience. Perhaps this lifts the local Seattle developer into a better, more visible place, and we’re looking forward to seeing them find the exposure their titles deserve.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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