vague_optimism's Galerians (PlayStation) review

I went back to Galerians, but my Dark City was gone.

In Galerians, you play as Rion: A young boy with questionable clothing taste who wakes up in a futuristic hospital with head-popping psychic powers and no memory of your past. As Rion flees from his pursuers and hones his abilities, he attempts to seek out his identity and learn just what the conspiracy is that's going on. 
 
To say this game is a trainwreck would be a little harsh. To say that it's a bad addition to the survival horror subgenre of adventure games would be more accurate. Being a PSX game, Galerians suffered from some basic technical limitations, but it's still an okay-looking game. It's full of decent-looking cinematics and fully-voiced dialogs and the underlying setting of the game is interesting. That said... 
 
The character models in the game land right smack dab in the uncanny valley (my graphic designer friend cringed at the extra-chromosomal-esque lack of golden ratios) and the voice acting is laughable at best and unspeakable at worst. (Does AudioAtrocities need a new game to mock?) The gameplay hails from the classic age of fixed-camera stand-and-turn adventure games that made Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Lara Croft so famous and, here as in all those others, the controls are largely to the game's detriment. 
 
In terms of pacing, the game spans only four sections, with puzzles that are either plainly simplistic or utterly illogical. I can think of at least three times in the game where you have to perform the same action in the same place twice before the puzzle solving cutscene would trigger. At only 6 hours, this is a pretty short ride as far as adventure games go, but the difficulty is quite random: One of the game mechanics requires the player to take a certain medicine to avoid "shorting" which causes heads to pop within the general vicinity while your health steadily deteriorates. The side-effect, however, is that if you are running low on that drug (see: limited inventory slots) you can't use any of your powers during boss battles, which means that if you accidentally mis-managed your inventory an hour ago, it's entirely possible that the game ends for you right here and now. The third chapter is particularly heinous in this regard, snapping two boss fights onto the end of a massive and pretty much aimless fetch quest.

When it isn't being hampered by poor controls and useless camera angles, the combat is decent, but repetitive: Each attack can charge up to a maximum level, which varies the amount of damage it deals and, in some cases, what effect it has. The game only features three attack powers, which means that you won't get to experience the arsenal that you may have liked in other adventure games from this era. 
 
Finally, there's the story. The game plots along at a snails pace, neither developing the main character's personality nor exploring the world in any depth or detail. Rion's character importance to the plot might be the same as that of the player in a game of Bejewled: Solve puzzle, beat guys up, move along. The big "twist" ending is also fraught with problems possibly arising due to localization issues, but much more likely indicative of the lazy writing involved. The final boss is lame, lame, lame. The ironic thing is, this game owes a LOT of its plotting to the stellar sci-fi horror drama Dark City, and yet only manages to be a very dim shadow of its cinematic counterpart.
 
Galerians once held a small warm corner in my heart from when I was a kid, sharing cubby space with Clock Tower and its ilk. On replaying it, however, I find that there is almost nothing here to redeem the game, aside from its far-reaching attempts at CGI narratives in a time before that technology was feasible on a massive scale. Perhaps it's not surprising that this crappy game with a bad movie wrapped around it ended up getting a direct-to-VHS (and DVD) release called "Galerians: Rion" which summarized the plot of the game with better CGI work and marginally better voice acting. If you want my advice, <b>skip the game and watch the movie; Better yet, just skip Galerians all together.</b>

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