September 11, 2013 7:00 AM | Anthony Swinnich
It would be hard to question 17-Bit's pedigree after Galak-Z: The Dimensional shown at PAX Prime indicates they have a lot left in the creativity tank. It's a good thing, too, since standing out in the overly crowded twin stick shooter genre is getting harder and harder to do.
The 1980s saturday morning cartoon style the game is dressed up with oozes personality. While one should never underestimate the power of nostalgia, 17-Bit is pulling out all the stops to make this feel really special. The high-octane introduction cinema is awesome, the music is energizing, and the voice acting is top notch. Seeing your character actually speaking at the bottom of the screen is also a really nice touch, lending more personality to both the characters you'll take control of and the ones you'll shoot down, since enemies show up on the opposite side of the screen. It's particularly satisfying to watch their transmission blink out when you obliterate their ship.
The game underneath the animated aspects plays really well, though. You begin adrift in space, but gain control of the ship after a brief tutorial that teaches you the controls as your systems come back online one by one. The interstellar dogfighting that follows is a lot of fun due to the unique twists put on the controls. My favorite is that you can actually pilot the ship in reverse and shoot the direction opposite you're heading. It sounds like a simple concept, but it really gives you a lot of flexibility and maneuverability during intense battles. The weaponry is also quite satisfying to fire. I especially liked the laser scan that occurs before firing a volley of missiles at the now-marked targets.
17-Bit has a lot of ideas for the final game that weren't present in the demo. The most notable is that ships will be fully customizable with parts you can find drifting through space, or purchased at stores. There may also be black market traders that can offer rare or unique pieces. Also unrepresented is the random nature of the levels. The game's stages may be entirely random in the final version, though that isn't yet locked in stone. There will also be an expansive multiplayer and post-release DLC, though details were scant on both of those elements as well.
Exploring the deep, rocky expanses in Galak-Z was reminiscent of the NES classic Solar Jetman, though it's a bit easier to control. Don't expect it to go easy on you, though, as that 80s-era difficulty may have made the nostalgia trip alongside the aesthetic. The demo concludes with a fight against a powerful Gundam-esque mech suit. While it can be defeated, I didn't see anyone that could do it at the show. Perhaps we'll all fare better when the game releases, though when is about as uncharted as the deep expanses of the universe. Galak-Z will first colonize the Playstation 4, then expand operations to Steam and maybe the Vita.