We all know the score when indie games make the jump to mobile. They tend to come across with slightly compromised - or, if we're lucky, thoughtfully reworked - controls. But the substance of the game itself tends to be the same.
Galak-Z: Variant Mobile is shaping up to be something else entirely. It's being positioned as a stand-alone mobile-only sequel to the 2015 PS4 game Galak-Z: The Dimensional, of which I was a huge fan.
Having been in soft-launch in the Philippines for a couple of months now, I figured it was high-time we took a closer look at this intriguing game.
From another Galak-Z
This is not developer 17-BIT's first mobile game rodeo - it previously developed the excellent Skulls of the Shogun for mobile platforms. Its expertise shows through in Galak-Z: Variant Mobile.
We're looking at a fluid, attractive space shooter that sets itself well apart from the crowd with its distinctive mechanics, physics, and presentation.
It would be inaccurate to call this a twin-stick shooter. Rather, your left thumb controls the orientation of your little space fighter, while your right controls forward and reverse thrust as well as weapons. This means that where you move and shoot always depends on where the nose of your craft is pointing.
Add in a relatively realistic inertia system, and steering your craft becomes quite an art. It takes a while to get used to.
At the same time, the system allows you to make satisfying strafing runs of the jittery opponents you face. Once you're used to it, you'll find yourself darting in and out of enemy fire, and squeezing through tight ravines like an accomplished pilot.
Shooting for the stars
The feel of Galak-Z: Variant Mobile is surprisingly faithful to the original, but 17-BIT has made a few concessions for mobile.
The novel ability to switch the aforementioned fighter and a melee-based mech form has been ditched here. Rather, you'll get given separate missions that require you to pilot one of the two.
Levels are also far less sprawling, and the game no longer has the roguelike-dungeon-crawler-in-space feel of the original.
That makes perfect sense on mobile, where bite-sized missions are the order of the day. There's still scope to dip back in and rinse each stage for components, too.
Potentially more divisive for fans of the original will be the introduction of modern mobile game elements like loot boxes and timed upgrades. There's also the ability to send your bot helpers out to fight on your behalf when you're not playing, and it remains to be seen how worthwhile such an addition is.
So far, Galak-Z: Variant Mobile nails the unique feel of the original. I only hope that the simplified missions don't fall into a cycle of repetitiveness, and that the new mobile-focused additions don't detract from the overall package.
Regardless, my early experience with Galak-Z: Variant Mobile has given me hope of a much-deserved second life for this half-forgotten indie gem.