Speaking with 17-Bit CEO and creative director Jake Kazdal, it’s difficult not to admire his passion. Creators often become animated when they’re proud of their creations, but Jake speaks with the frenzied excitement of a man making lifelong dreams into realities, overcome by the incredible potential of his brain-child and the overwhelmingly positive response it’s been met with. Galak-Z is absolutely deserving of every bit of praise that’s been tossed its way, but Jake and his team aren’t resting on their laurels. With the game already on PS4 and a PC launch imminent, they’ve also unveiled plans for a mobile version, published by Gung-Ho Online Entertainment, titled Galak-Z: Variant Mobile. It’s a bold, unexpected and unconventional move, but, true to form, all signs point towards an emphatic and inspired mobile iteration.
It won’t be a straightforward port, though. 17-Bit has plans for changes big and small, from the fundamental structure of the game to the color of the logo. “I don’t think a ten or fifteen minute level is a good fit for a mobile device,” Jake explains. “The full game is a very hardcore, demanding roguelike, and I don’t think that’s the perfect fit for a mobile audience. I think we need to make this into something more arcade-y, more lighthearted; not something nearly as brutally demanding.” From the sound of things, Galak-Z could be in for a substantial shake-up during its transition to mobile, but Jake assures me fans will still find the game’s soul intact. “I would expect the structure to be substantially different, while retaining the core experience. Combat is gonna be fun for everybody, and the controls are tight, and that’s the most important thing”.
I’ll be the first to admit I had my doubts about Galak-Z‘s ability to translate its addictive allure to mobile. It seemed to me like a game that required a little too much finesse for a touch screen, but the wizards at 17-Bit have proved me wrong. Variant Mobile controls incredibly well, relying on three main buttons in Move, Boost and Shoot to lead the experience. Because the more advanced controls are layered in — you can play from the start with just the big three — players can slowly integrate more advanced techniques at their leisure, like double tapping Boost for jukes or swiping down on Boost and then sliding over to Shoot to reverse thrust and shoot at once. It feels intuitive and acutely responsive, and while it will never control quite as well as its console counterpart, Galak-Z: Variant Mobile is already looking like one of the most robust and refined experiences on the mobile marketplace.
Watching it in action, it’s astounding how well the game has handled the move to mobile. After 17-Bit delayed the Vita version of Galak-Z indefinitely, citing technical limitations, I was convinced it would only ever be a game I played in the solitude of my living room. ”A lot of people were upset to see the Vita version wasn’t gonna make it — at least not right now — and they were like ‘How the hell are you gonna do this on a mobile device?’. Well, mobile devices are actually pretty powerful these days. And you know, it feels great, because I’m not a huge action game fan on mobile; for the most part I don’t think it works as well as the pad, but this game inherently, because of the floaty nature of it, is more about your tactics and timing. We actually pulled it off. Everyone I’ve given this demo to is like ‘Wow, I can’t believe you guys made this feel this good. It doesn’t’ make sense.’ I’m playing it all the time, and I’m like ‘This is good'”. Playing it on Jake’s phone as he speaks, I can’t help but agree.
Despite all of the plaudits Galak-Z has already won on PS4, it sounds like the best is still yet to come. The plans may not be finalized just yet, but it’s abundantly clear that 17-Bit and Gung-Ho are doing everything they can to make Galak-Z: Variant Mobile an adventure worthy of the standards set by the full game. With hard work, calculated design and pure, unfiltered passion, Jake and his team are setting Galak-Z up to be much more than a modest indie sensation. If they can produce the game’s same addictive quality on mobile devices, their incredible IP could blow up into one of the most prominent multi-media franchises in decades.