05/06/2018

๐Ÿ”ซ Review: Garage - Nintendo Switch "Just Needs a Slight Tuning Up" ๐Ÿ”ซ #IndieGame #GameDev

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Game Title – Garage
Platform Reviewed – Nintendo Switch
Developer – tinyBuild Games
Garage is a top-down shooter with horror elements that is set entirely underground.

With Hotline Miami and the Sega Saturn / PlayStation game Loaded as touchstones, Garage gets a lot right but has some issues running throughout that reduce the ‘one more go’ factor that can make or break these types of games.
You play the character of drug dealer Butch, who wakes up in an underground parking garage with no idea of recent events. It becomes clear, however, that all is not well, zombies lurch towards Butch (who initially has only his fists and an axe to fight them off, but soon picks up an arsenal of weapons to help him work his way through the underground system), the location itself is badly damaged and desolate and sporadic TV reports tell of a world gone to hell outside.  
Visually, the game is clearly inspired by Hotline Miami but with a more stripped-back, grimy aesthetic as opposed to the bright, 80s neon that was Hotline Miami’s call sign, the game reminded me more of Loaded in this department.

The animation is quite smooth and the screen has a grainy, VHS vibe which enhances the general feel of grittiness, this approach is also reflected in the sound design which feels raw and loud. Zombies screech, gunshots are hefty and the music is warped and off-kilter, it sets up a dark tone from the off.
With the story being so stripped-back (you essentially work your way through the game in a linear fashion, gleaning background information from the occasional notes and brief interludes that are scattered around), the focus is mainly on the gameplay, which is unfortunately where I found the game suffered.

Controlling your character never feels as tight as it could be in Garage. Aiming the guns isn’t comfortably accurate and the dodge function takes up a lot of room in a game that comprises mostly of enclosed, cluttered spaces which removes a lot of the strategy as you’ll often dive into some furniture or debris, cornering you and allowing you to get devoured by the zombie hordes. This isn’t helped by the way in which enemies and items appear in the game world.
Garage operates a sort of ‘line of sight’ system whereby you, once you enter a room or corridor, you can see everything except the enemies, these will ‘pop up’ as you turn corners or walk close to them and to me, it never felt natural.

If you had a torch or light source it would seem more fitting or if the game went the other way and allowed you to see the enemies, you could then plan your attack and get some strategy going on. As it stands, you have to peak around corners and inch your way into new rooms, either taking pot-shots or getting blown away in what can feel like cheap deaths (especially in the later levels when gun-wielding enemies make an appearance) and restarting that section again in a trial and error style although luckily, checkpoints are quite common.

These design choices, along with a psychedelic section that doesn’t really go anywhere and some set pieces that feel thrown-in gave me the impression that the developers weren’t all on the same page with the direction that they wanted the game to go in and so it never falls into its own rhythm.

In some ways Garage wants you to blast your way through the levels in a pulse-pounding arcade-style gauntlet complete with arena (some truly gruesome and cool) boss fights and in others it makes you inch your way around, spending a lot of time reloading and giving you an abundance of ammo but only the ability to hold a relatively small amount (3/4 clips for each gun) on your person hinting at a more strategic approach.
Summary
Whilst I enjoyed the tone and setup of Garage, even the black humour that permeates throughout as Butch gets deeper and deeper into the game, I never felt fully involved or reached that trance-like ‘zone’ that similar games can trap you in.
It always felt like I was being dragged from one setup to the next with no flow in between and eventually, around chapter nine I felt my interest really waning, I wanted to see how it ended but I needed a break from the game first.

The surreal narrative combined with the raw visuals and audio work well but are bogged down by finicky controls and odd design choices.

I can imagine that a sequel (or maybe even a hefty patch) would clear up a lot of the issues that I have with Garage, but in its current form, it’s not a game that I’m in a hurry to return to.
Right, I’m off to kick a load of rats in the face.
๐Ÿ’ง❄️ RATING: MELTING ❄️๐Ÿ’ง
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)

MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

Britt