I caused a bit of trouble when Tomb Raider came out on PC. I reviewed it for PC Format and while it was clearly a very good game and Lara Croft had all the makings of quite a popular character, there was enough wrong with it for me to mark it below the 90% that Eidos expected. Words were had, but damn it: I was right. Bad camera, too fiddly, lots of pointless falling to your death, broken menus. It was spectacular but it needed work. Naturally everyone in the world bought it, and Core Design spent the next few years churning out sequels that were basically new content and nothing done to address what was wrong with the original game. It’s almost as if they got very very lucky with Toby Gard’s original design and, once he’d left, didn’t have the first fucking clue how to improve upon it.
Anyway. Core got back to their normal business of being a second-rate developer with not much idea of how to make decent games, while Toby Gard formed Confounding Factor and spent the best part of a decade coming up with Galleon, hopping from platform to platform and eventually settling on the Xbox. It limped quietly onto the shelves and no-one really cared.
Which is a shame because Galleon was a great game that fixed just about everything that was wrong with Tomb Raider. The graphics looked a little dated but the game itself was a marvel, with a beautiful fluid combat system and a truly wonderful inverse kinematics engine, meaning that characters were dynamically animated from the ground upwards and could climb naturally over obstacles rather than treating them like blocks that had to be jumped onto. Hardly anything in games uses IK, and I find that just plain weird because it looks so much more realistic than, well, every other 3D engine.
What it didn’t have, of course, was Lara Croft’s arse to stare at, which relegated Galleon to the status of just another 3D platformer. But there was so much more to it than that, and I think it’s a real shame that no-one really bothered to give it a go. My Xbox bit the dust years ago and of course Microsoft never bothered to create an Xbox 360 compatibility patch for it, so it doesn’t look like I’ll ever get the chance to play it again. Which is a pity; someone should really have a go at a conversion for XBLA so that people can have the opportunity to play a massively underrated classic.
So: why didn’t you buy Galleon?