Previews// PAX Round-Up: Ever Green, First Wonder, Galak-Z and Guild of Dungeoneering: Pirate Cove

Posted 23 Sep 2015 15:00 by
Galak-Z
Developer: 17-Bit
Format(s): Windows PC, PS4, iOS and Android

Controlling arcade games on tablets and phones is devilishly difficult to get right. Many have tried and most have failed. The most successful have been Jeff Minter's work, with Minotaur Rescue being an excellent example of understanding the platform and how it can be controlled via a non-tactile section of the screen. I have spoken about this before in my podcast, The Sausage Factory, where in episode 47 I discuss the concept of 'remote control play' in Satellina, where the player interacts with a part of the screen that is remote from what they are controlling.

So what does all of this have to do with Galak-Z? Well 17-Bit is bringing its celebrated shoot'em up that resides on Windows PC and PS4 to mobile platforms. When I first saw this at PAX Prime 2015 I thought to myself 'nothing good can come of this, only Jeff can make arcade games on mobile platforms!'. Thankfully I was proven wrong.

Galak-Z is a highly inventive and challenging shoot-em up that, rather than scrolling in one direction, allows the player free movement. Strafing runs are a necessity rather than a special action that the player occasionally pulls off, and the control of the ship is something the player must master in order to make any headway into Galak-Z.

Knowing how important the control of the ship was to Galak-Z I was concerned to see how 17-Bit had managed to reproduce these very tactile controls from the original onto mobile devices. I played the mobile version, which was in early alpha when I got my hands on it, on both a tablet and an Android smartphone that boasted a reasonably large screen. The method of control adopts the remote system I spoke of earlier in this preview and the firing of weapons relies upon the duration the player taps the screen for, and also uses swipes in order to use secondary weapons such as missiles.

Despite the early stage of development I played Galak-Z in I was surprised at how responsive and intuitive it was. Another concern I had was the 'digits in the way' syndrome arcade games suffer from when ported to tablets. Again Galak-Z overcomes this by sectioning off a part of the screen that demarks it clearly from the rest of the on-screen action. This reduces the risk of player's fingers getting in the way as nothing actually happens underneath their paws as they play Galak-Z.

Porting Galak-Z to mobile platforms was a very brave move made by 17-Bit and one can only applaud the team for their efforts here, at least based on the experience I had with it.

Galak-Z is currently out on PS4 and Windows PC and is also due to appear on iOS and Android devices some time in 2016.

Guild of Dungeoneering: Pirate Cove
Developer: Gambrinos
Format(s): Windows PC and Mac

I have already written about Guild of Dungeoneering here so I won't bore you with the basics of it again. What I am going to talk to you about is the expansion that was recently announced and showed off at PAX Prime 2015 at the booth of Verses Evil, the game's publisher.

The Guild of Dungeoneering: Pirate Cove expansion is pretty much what it sounds like. A swashbuckling, sea-worthy expansion to the original Guild of Dungeoneering that features pirates, mermaids, rubber ducks (of course) and drunken sailors (again, of course). The traditionally stupidly high difficulty level is prevalent in this expansion and the goal of taking down the chief pirate was never achieved by me, despite my experience with Guild of Dungeoneering. This didn't surprise me at all - as with most expansions, it is for those with a considerable amount of skill when playing the original.

From what I played and saw, the two classes on offer do a great job of reflecting the almost infinite amount of material available for pirate-themed games. These classes were Drunken Sailor and Swashbuckler. The former had the ability to fall over on cue and also wildly throw punches in the hope of hitting something. Clearly this character class isn't one of those 'friendly' drunk types.

The swashbuckler is very nimble as they are sober. They dodge as much as they can and once landing a blow it can be quite devastating as their special ability delivers greater damage every time they deflect damage inflicted upon them, which can stack. I actually found this class to be the most fun to play as the thought of dancing around enemies and then skewering in them with a deft blow was very satisfying.

Other than the new classes and monster roster, little else is different from the original title. This is very much in keeping with expansions as they typically do not seek to alter the base game too much, especially one as fun as Guild of Dungeoneering.

Guild of Dungeoneering: Pirates Cove is to appear some time in 2016 and requires the original game to play.
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