When a game has been in development for several years the result is usually either very good, or very bad. People have been having very different opinions about this game, but if you invest some hours into it you may find a real gem. Galleon has been, as you may know Toby Gard’s project for just about the past five years. It was once scheduled for release on the Dreamcast, but due to various reasons it was delayed. Toby Gard came up with the idea of Lara Croft, only not with the oversized breasts and such. He’s obviously a man who likes games with charismatic characters, something that Galleon clearly reflects. The story revolves around a ship Captain by the name of Rhama Sabrier; an adventurer by heart, someone who just can’t turn down a good quest. You’re asked to meet with the governor of the island state of Akbah. This man, Dr Areliano is also a healer, and has requested you there to help him identify a special item, and hopefully also have you trace its origin. As usual you’re offered a generous sum of money for your trouble, but somehow I doubt Captain Rhama knew what he signed up for when he accepted his mission. Before you actually begin the task you make an acquaintance with the Doctor’s very attractive daughter by the name of Faith. As chance may have it their paths are crossed and during the 30 or so hours it’ll take you to finish the game you’ll run into plenty of plot twists together, along with a good dose of humor, action, and romance.
Galleon is, as you may’ve seen in screenshots yet another third-person action game or YATPAG as I sometime like calling them. The game offers some fresh ideas to an otherwise dry genre, but it does fall short here and there. Let’s start with the basics first. Captain Rhama is moved around entirely using the left analog stick. By moving it to the sides you rotate the camera, which in turn rotates the Captain. Going back and forth is done the normal way, but the actual movement looks and feels different from most similar games. When you run forward and turn somewhere it really does look like he’s turning, but the downside is that it sometimes feels like you’re driving a not very responsive car. Captain Rhama has two movement modes, if you can call it that. By applying only a slight pressure he’s in slow/safe mode, where he can’t fall off ledges and such, but moves much slower than otherwise. This mode is useful for several reasons, because the pathfinding can do a bit of the work for you when you’re crossing thin ledges and more.
By applying more pressure you start running, but it takes about 50 meters until our hero is at full speed. It’s also important to mention that this is about as far from a pirate simulator as you may possibly get. If you imagine a comic book adventurer in a make-believe pirate world you’re getting closer. Now imagine that this man can jump very, very far, survive long falls, and that he has a strength so ridiculous that he can move enormous boulders – that’s basically Captain Rhama.
Our hero can also climb a good number of the game’s rocky walls. This is usually done to reach seemingly unreachable parts of the area you’re playing in, but is also a necessity to progress in the game. Amusingly Captain Rhama looks like Spiderman in these situations, a game they may’ve borrowed a bit from.
It doesn’t take very long until you bump into some bandits – bandits who you somehow fail to charm, so they attack you on sight. Besides bandits, who are armed with increasingly deadly weapons you’ll fight creatures of increasingly devious size and shape. The combat system is also somewhat innovative, but also appears to be a source of many complaints. You have two primary attack buttons: one basic attack, and one special attack button. You may be using only your fists, blades, pistols, and so on. Several combos are also available, and you learn more as you progress in the game. If you’re fighting a mob of bandits you’ll earn combat points, and when you have enough you can unleash increasingly devastating attacks. Captain Rhama blocks attacks if you’re not attacking someone, but it means you have to be facing your attacker. You may also use both attack backwards, but to reach the sides you normally have to move around a bit. Finally you have the grabs, which can be used to get free shots at your opponent, or you may throw him forward or backwards. The combat can be truly fun if things go as you planned. Some of the fights are done close to steep ledges, so it’s always satisfying to send foes flying, or do some devastating attack that kills a whole group.
Bosses also appear now and then, and they tend to be huge and they tend to be nasty. The only downside is that many of these are dealt with by jumping on top of them, grabbing them by the hide, climbing to the head, and poking it with a blade a few times.
Puzzles are something you’ll have to deal with on many occasions. These come in numerous forms, but in many you need to locate a certain item, then perhaps alter it a bit, and then using it in some way. Other times you’ll need to find hidden keys, or alternative entrances into something. If a quest requires you to locate one or more items there’ll pop up the appropriate number of boxes at the bottom of the screen and once you’re close they’ll start glowing and making sounds. It really is convenient to not only have super human strength and agility, but also having a sixth sense when it comes to locating important things. I can’t really say that the puzzles are Galleon’s strongest point, but they should keep you busy. Now and then you also need to solve or reach a certain objective in a specific time frame. It can at times be hard to know where exactly it is you’re supposed to go, so it’s definitely important to watch the cut-scenes closely.
The cut-scenes bring me to the next section, namely the graphics. Some may say that Galleon looks ridiculously outdated, and something that would suit the Dreamcast far more than an XBOX. To some extent they’re right, but even though the game isn’t rich on polygons or even somewhat detailed textures it does have a distinct cartoon-like style. Technically the game looks fairly bad compared to other modern XBOX games, but it saves itself a bit by the charming characters and the excellent character animations. Captain Rhama does some superb transitions, and with the cloth simulator to make his clothes move correctly he’s truly a sight to be seen – just not necessarily up close. I really do wish some more time and effort had been put into rounding out some of the edges, fixing the obviously bad looking parts.
Galleon uses an excellent cast of voice talents, and none disappoint. You may recognize a few of the voices from other games, but at the end of the day most of them suit their character well. The script is rather decent too, but the cut-scenes are clearly where most of the dialogue is delivered. It could’ve been nice if for instance the bandits spoke properly when they attacked you, but it’s no big deal.
There are some people who truly do love Galleon, but most of those have gone beyond the not that spectacular graphics and invested a few hours into it. The gameplay can at times be quite dynamic and enjoyable, but there are also times when it feels like a generic 3d platform game. Galleon has a pretty big game world where you can do some good old exploring, in search of hidden items; something that might make it interesting to play it a second time.
You probably won’t have time to finish the game if you rent it, but at least give it a try and if the sometimes dynamic gameplay and its distinct style appeals to you then you could go with far worse games than this.