Upon its initial release, Galencia garnered a strong wave of interest within Commodore 64 community as the scene held its breath in hope that their favourite 8-bit machine was finally going to receive a ‘Galaga-esque’ game of high quality that had eluded the old bread bin for 35 years.
Developed by a team headed by Jason Aldred and distributed by Provotivision, Galencia was quite able to capture the gameplay that made Galaga a timeless classic and as a result quickly became one of the most popular new generation C64 games of 2017. Galenica received broad critical acclaim by game reviewers which ultimately resulted in Galencia being awarded the 2017 Game of the Year by the iconic Reset64 team.
As we strap ourselves in to revisit the game 14 months later, we start of with the backstory to Galencia where we find that the Earth’s population of bees are protected by The Guardians (giant queen bees) and they have returned to exterminate the human population for damaging the environment to the extent that the bees are at extreme risk of extinction.
As the game loads up, we are presented with a gorgeous looking introductory screen depicting the launch preparation sequence where Ace Harper (your character) walks across the launch platform to his ship and sets of into space to do battle against The Guardians and their bee soldiers.
As I jump in to start playing the first few levels, I am reminded of the level of effort Aldred has poured into Galencia as the main character ship and the enemies are drawn in large colourful detail. The movement of the enemy ships are smooth and non-linear and confirms that this is a highly respectful homage to Galaga. This is highlighted with the enemy AI being able to pull off sophisticated movement patterns and give a good impression that the killer bees are able to hone into your ship, no matter what position you are on screen.
The sounds coming from the enemies and your bullets have a rich ’fullness’ to them and the backing soundtrack is somewhat thematic and compliments the game very well and ensures that there is never any sonic gaps during gameplay.
Add in a learning curve that is set at a level that encourages you to have ‘just one more go’ and the game comes together to provide an addictive experience initially until you notice that Galencia tends to repeat the same enemy types throughout the game. It is this realisation that prevents Galencia from being a five-star experience as you don’t feel like that you will be rewarded with seeing anything new by advancing further into the game levels. The game tries to break things up by throwing in challenge stages in order to obtain bonuses and there are two impressive looking boss battles but ultimately the shortcomings of the single screen shoot’em up (or at least my lack of appreciation for the genre) means that Galencia is not a game that I will look to revisit too often.
Despite the linear gameplay on offer, Jason Aldred deserves all the plaudits he has received with Galencia. High production values, graphics that are large and vibrant, along with quality of the sonics on offer does make Galencia a stand out game that has made a mark in the C64 gaming history.
Galencia is a wonderful homage to Galaga that contains numerous game elements to make a very good game in its own right. C64 owners finally have a single screen shooter that we can be proud off. It will be a game that you will return to and enjoy in the many years to come.
Retro gaming journalist promoting NEW C64, Amiga, Amstrad CPC & ZX Spectrum games. Contributes to RetroGamerNation YouTube channel, RVG and Vintage is the New Old blog sites, Reset 64 Magazine, The 8-Bit Annual and various other publications.