Garage, the pixelated, top-down twin-sticks shooter, leaves a bad first impression. The top-down perspective makes the player character, Butch, look very lanky and awkward, the melee controls seem clunky and unresponsive, and a gross and somewhat juvenile tone permeates through every pixel.
But if you progress deep enough into the titular garage, you might find that the game’s mechanics, if not its story, become deeper as well. A few of its core problems remain persistent, but at its best, Garage can provide an extremely engaging, fluid, and diverse experience.
Garage is a timed exclusive for Nintendo Switch, with no planned date for release on other platforms. It can be purchased digitally for your regional price.
Intended to capture the tone of 80’s B-movies, Garage usually doesn’t take itself seriously, and largely fails whenever it attempts to do so. Butch finds himself on the brink of death from a car crash, but escapes and heals himself. He quickly becomes acquainted with the brain-eating inhabitants, and also communicates with the mysterious Anaconda, a member of the resistance against… evil corporations? Together, they team up to escape from the garage, and maybe save the world while they’re at it.
Garage revels a bit too much in the grotesque, often taking things to very irreverent extremes, but my uncomfortable reaction was clearly what it was going for. There’s plenty of drug usage in the game, from weed to an insane zombie drug (literally, not just Adderall), and even a cutscene where a bunch of butts in bikini bottoms are shown on-screen for almost no reason, alongside a consistent stream of bullets, blood, and body parts. It can often feel a bit overdone, but it’s possible to just give in to all of the wackiness and come along for the ride, much like an actual B-movie.
Butch, in particular, is instantly unlikable thanks to his slow wit, rude humor, and disgustingly perverted attitude toward Anaconda, in one case asking what kind of actress she looks like so he can decide whether or not to save her. The game attempts to make him sympathetic by giving him a troubled backstory but never spends enough time to make me actually care about him, nor any of the supporting characters. Anaconda is a tough, yet still, largely two-dimensional damsel in distress, while the villain is the typical mad scientist trope.
The most unique aspect of Garage is that you can only see enemies, traps, items etc. that fall within Butch’s line of sight, even though it’s in a top-down perspective. While this seems good in theory, especially to maintain the tension of a horror game, in practice it becomes needlessly frustrating, especially in one stealth chapter. A lot of Garage’s appeal stems from the need to strategize your positioning in relation to enemies, which seems at odds with its insistence on keeping them hidden from you, with no ability or sound cues to even hint at their location.
Nonetheless, this isn’t a total game-breaker, as the game’s tough-as-nails combat still shines through in many instances. It takes an hour or two before the game stops serving up the same linear, bland levels that expose its faults the most, but if you push through, Garage opens up to allow for more exploration, choice in weapons, and diversity in enemy types.
While it makes liberal use of checkpoints, Garage is nonetheless a relentlessly tough game, even on its easiest setting. While the game is indeed best when it’s more intense, it can often cross the line into ridiculousness. The current easy setting should have been labeled as normal (or even hard!), with an easier option available.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
I was skeptical when Nintendo emphasized Garage’s intense violence in their Nindie event. After all, it’s all pixels! How bad could it be? How wrong I was. Garage is not for the squeamish, as it features creatures straight out of The Human Centipede and bloated zombies that explode into an excessive amount of blood and guts that splatter the floor, leaving a battalion of rats. If anything, the pixel art style simply leaves more to the imagination. While the game might not have modern graphics, don’t think that it can’t be graphic.
While there are often long stretches of time when there’s simple background noise, a guitar riff, or nothing at all, certain tracks from the game are among its highest points of praise. While not quite reaching the adrenaline-fueled metal of DOOM, it gets close. Furthermore, there are some beautiful tracks for some of the game’s quieter moments, even if they sadly serve a superficial story.
The game crashed on me once, which unfortunately sent me back all the way to the beginning of the chapter, and not my last checkpoint where it was supposedly “saving.” It can stutter a bit in extremely packed areas, but the frame rate otherwise runs smoothly.
Not only did Garage give a bad first impression, but it also left a bad taste in my mouth. The final boss, while a good culmination of all that you’d learned, was far too difficult, and after two hours of attempting to beat it after likely hundreds of deaths, I finally succumbed in order to write this review. Simply put, it is utterly preposterous that the final boss is this unreasonably difficult on the game’s easiest setting, and I stomped over to the keyboard to pound out some scathing remarks.
But as my head cooled, and I began to think back on the game more holistically, I realized that there was a lot of good to be found under a thick, grimy veil of its off-putting tone and difficulty.
Each level introduces a new concept, so at the beginning, there is far too little, and by the very end there is far too much, but in the middle, they got it just right. There’s a lot to push through in order to get to what’s good about Garage, but if you can get there, you will find an excellent, if campy, twin-stick shooter for your Switch.
|+ Varied locales, guns, and enemies||– Far too difficult, even on its easiest setting|
|+ Middle strikes a good balance between novelty and fairness||– Not being able to see enemies you're not facing leads to more confusion than tension|
|+ Exhilarating and haunting soundtrack||– Overdone grotesque and irrevent tone|