Saturday, August 29, 2015

Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension (GBA)

In the year 2002, a live-action sci-fi series aired on Fox Kids (called Vortexx at the time I began writing this review before it went extinct) called Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension. The show involved a boy named Nicholas “Nick” Bluetooth (Matthew Ewald) and his friend Allegra Zane (Marie-Marguerite Sabongui) becoming involved in a battle against the evil Gorm (Derrick Damon Reeve and Steven P. Park; voiced by Ian Finlay) in order to save another dimension (despite what you may think, Nick’s last name, Bluetooth, does not refer to Bluetooth technology, which was on the rise at the time, but rather the Danish King Harald “Bluetooth” Blaatand, which the technology is also named after). One major aspect of the show was a power known as “Glinching”, in which two parties can swap body parts with each other by making physical contact (ex. touching heads or left arms to swap them), usually done for one party to gain an ability another has that they don’t (ex. swapping legs can give one super speed). However, Nick is special in that he can Glinch without having to make contact, so one minute he can have a normal arm, the next it’s briefly a telescopic arm or a piledriver and so forth. Usually, Nick used this power to gain the upper hand, although there were also moments where this power would backfire on him. The show even had its own line of LEGO toys, which were made such that each figure had swappable body parts, allowing one to swap parts between toys to recreate the Glinching power seen in the show.

The main cast of the TV series (from left): Euripides, Allegra, Nick, Jens, Nepol

Growing up, I was a major Galidor fan, as was my brother and also my parents to a certain degree, and even now I have some memories of it, even if they are mostly vague (it’s been a while since I last watched the show). Similarly to Bionicle (which has received a reboot since I began writing this), it reached the point where I not only obtained every figure in the LEGO line, including one that actually interacted with the show, but I also got every one of the McDonald’s toys that were made as a tie-in, all of which also featured the Glinching gimmick and could thus interact with the main-line toys.

Gorm, the main antagonist of the series (in lieu of an actual screenshot).

I share my thoughts on this (now obscure) series because on a trip (the same one where I found Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy) I stumbled upon the tie-in video game released for the Game Boy Advance (GBA), also called Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension. Since I then-recently acquired a Game Boy Advance SP, I decided to give the game a go, since I remembered liking the show and wanted a chance to experience something else Galidor related after being away from it for over a decade. While the game itself did allow me to touch base with a show I enjoyed so much and did nothing to hamper it, it does prove itself to be a bit of a challenge for all the wrong reasons.

After landing on the planet Arbo, Nick Bluetooth’s friends are kidnapped and taken to other worlds, forcing him to go rescue them. There isn’t much to the story beyond this, aside from Nick having to face Gorm at the end. However, I wouldn’t entirely call this just an excuse to get the game going, since whenever you rescue a friend they tell you where you need to go next, so I would consider the story loose at best.

The title screen, featuring the main cast in 32-bit glory.

Each world you travel to, of which there are 5, is split up into 4 levels, at least for the first 4 worlds; they usually consist of two platforming sections, followed by a 3D section before switching back to platforming, culminating in a boss fight. The fifth world, Gorm’s Lair, is entirely a boss fight, but I will get into more detail on that later. At the end of each level, you need to find a Keyfrag, which in the show are pieces of the egg-shaped key to opening the dimension Galidor, before you can advance; additionally, you must also enter the TDNM (Trans-Dimensional Navigation Module), aka the Egg (due to its shape), at the end of the platforming and boss sections.

The TDNM, for reference.

Throughout each level, you can pick up one of six different Glinches, ranging from a laser arm to a super jump, all of which are needed to more quickly advance through the area in which they appear. These Glinches also only last for a short period of time, though sometimes another copy of a Glinch you are using will show up within the same level to refill the timer (this can come in really handy during particularly difficult sections). You can also hold up to two Glinches at a time (grabbing a third will override one of the two you have), which can be (de-)activated at will by using the L and R buttons on the handheld. Each of these Glinches has a special power that is usually activated by pressing the A or B button, depending on which power it is. (During swimming sections, press B to accelerate; do this while facing up if you want to jump out of the water. If you plan on playing this game, I just saved you some frustration right there.)

One of several Glinches you can obtain during gameplay.

The platforming sections of the game actually have a good amount of enemy variety, and if you’re not careful, you can take damage before you land a hit (your normal attack is a sort of slide kick, though some Glinches can do the job more effectively). However, I played on Easy mainly so I could get through the game quicker, so I can definitely say that most of the game’s difficulty comes from the level design in the platforming segments. If you’re going through a level for the first time, you will end up running into a lot of blind jumps and more than likely die a lot in the stage, so to get through the level you pretty much have to go through it enough times to memorize it, particularly in the later stages of the game. I will give points for each level being unique from each other, but even some of the harder stages are a little more difficult than others (especially when you need the grappling hook Glinch, which requires very precise timing to swing across ceilings, to get through). Fortunately, each platforming level has a number of checkpoints to ease the struggle, though there are points where it almost seems like there aren’t enough of them. Due to this frustration with some stages, I employed a strategy that helped me get through the game at a somewhat respectable pace: When I got to a particularly difficult section, I took a break and kept my SP on (with backlight off) and constantly plugged in while in this state when able, that way I could continue without having to start the level over again (which you will have to do if you at any point turn the system off).

Another point of frustration is the boss fights, of which there are 5, including Gorm (aka the entirety of the Gorm’s Lair world). For a couple of them, I was able to figure out on my own how to beat them, though with the others I tried looking up strategies on how to beat them after failing to figure it out (they can be kind of cryptic). However, as it is nigh impossible to find a whole lot of information on Galidor online, especially when it comes to the GBA game, the only real guide I could find was a Let’s Play on YouTube, which I only ever used for the aforementioned boss fights. Gorm is especially tough to beat, given that the fight is in three stages that you must go through on a single life bar. With some aid from the Let’s Play on the first two sections, I was able to eventually get through the fight, though it did take me a little bit to figure out exactly how to get past the second part (Tip: using the D-Pad creates momentum after you jump out of the water). However, with some perseverance, I was able to make it through, which gave me an adrenaline rush the closer I got to beating Gorm, which lasted until I finally beat the game.

A sample of gameplay (planet Arbo pictured).

Across each level, excluding boss battles but including the 3D levels, you can also pick up canisters of Qorium, used to power the Egg in the series, of which there are 100. Picking up all 100 in a level nets you a Qorium Bonus; while this does create some replay value, every time you retry a level, the amount of Qorium you find in each level resets, forcing you to search all over for all the Qorium. As I only got all the Qorium in the first level after a couple of tries, I quickly stopped trying to do so after a few levels for the sake of getting through the game faster, so I’m not quite sure what the Qorium Bonus is supposed to be. (As a side note, you can also get a bonus for getting through the level fast enough, but for all the non-3D levels I could never get a time that wasn’t “Way Too Slow”.)

There are also four interactions with the Kek Powerizer toy (Intruder Alert, Shields, Tracking, Road Rocket) that you can obtain over the course of the game in one way or another, usually by finding them in a level or completing a world, the last of which I got for defeating Gorm (getting these interactions eventually became one of my main motivations for completing the game, along with the satisfaction of beating Gorm). The interactions are meant to work by having the GBA next to the toy, which also extends to interactivity occurring during regular gameplay. Unfortunately, even after unearthing the Kek Powerizer sometime after completing the game, I wasn’t quite able to get it to work, but it seems like the four particular interactions may have been to unlock games on the toy, which had already been unlocked (possibly via interaction with the TV series).

This is the Kek Powerizer, in case you were wondering,
which also has swappable parts.

While I don’t have much experience playing on a Game Boy Advance, I would say that the graphics are pretty good for what they are. There’s enough detail that you can tell what everything is supposed to be, and the game has a bright color palette that works in its favor, allowing you to see everything pretty clearly so you can more easily navigate the level. The sound design, for what it’s worth, is decent. There isn’t any voice acting, but there are a few music tracks that play during levels and menus. I got used to the music after a while, and admittedly it stays with you a little while after you beat the game, but it’s generally not really anything to write home about.

Overall, Galidor: Defenders of the Outer Dimension is a decent game. It has interesting gameplay with the Glinching mechanic and there is some variety and replay value, though the music, while somewhat of an acquired taste, isn’t entirely praise-worthy. The level design can get really aggravating after a while, so I suggest keeping the game on at all times while getting through a tough stage, but admittedly being able to beat it on your own skill is mildly satisfying (however, it is extremely satisfying to be able to defeat Gorm on said skill, though I would say it’s okay to get a little bit of assistance). Even though I couldn’t get it to work for me, it’s interesting that the game was made to interact with the Kek Powerizer in the first place, and (now that I think about it) by modern standards is kind of like a reverse-Skylanders (a game adding features to a toy rather than vice-versa).

If, after reading this review, you are interested in seeing what Galidor is like, there unfortunately isn’t a DVD release of any kind, but you might have some luck finding episodes online. If you are someone who remembers this show, this may be the only way for you to be able to become acquainted once again with Galidor aside from the LEGO toys, though I would suggest weighing whether you want to play this game or not if you haven’t played it already. If you are a newcomer to Galidor, I would still consider weighing your options, but in either case the game is worth trying at least once to form your own opinion. If you own the Kek Powerizer from the toy line and you can get the interactivity to kick in, this game is perfect for getting more mileage out of it. For what it’s worth, I’m still glad I got to play the game, since it may be the only chance I get to reconnect with Galidor for a long while without having to dig out the toys.

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