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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: tinyBuild
Developer: Zombie Dynamics
Release Date: May 10, 2018


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Switch Review - 'Garage'

by Thomas Wilde on June 6, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Inspired by VHS Era B-Movies, Garage is a bloody topdown shooter.

Buy Garage

The elevator pitch for Garage is simple: "What if Hotline: Miami were a survival-horror game?"

I usually hate that kind of X-meets-Y reduction, but it's impossible to overlook here. Garage is a top-down, twin-stick, pixel-based shooter that takes a lot of really obvious inspiration from Hotline: Miami. It's fast-paced, does a lot with its level design to play with the concept of reality, and sprays blood and shredded meat everywhere at the slightest provocation.

I wish I liked it more than I do, but Garage is also needlessly obtuse and unnecessarily frustrating. A lot of necessary features of the game and its world simply aren't explained, or can't be relied on to work right the first time due to bugs, so you're just expected to die and experiment your way through. When it works, it does some interesting things with the narrative and level design, and I like the way it gradually becomes more surreal as you go, but overall, you lose nothing by skipping it.

The game starts when you, as a drug dealer named Butch, wake up in the trunk of a car in an underground parking garage somewhere. Everyone you see is dead, gnawed to death by reanimated corpses, courtesy of what appears to be an untested food additive. In your attempts to escape, you discover that, despite initial appearances, this probably isn't Earth; you are most likely but not necessarily in the midst of one of the great, all-time, drug-induced hallucinations; this is the single largest underground complex in human history; and you're probably going right up against not only a corporate-owned private military contractor, but a crazy scientist whose life's work involves, for reasons known only to himself, sewing together people and dogs. Hilarity ensues.

The game only really starts once you get your hands on a gun, at which point Garage feels a little like an old-school Resident Evil game sped up to a shooter's pace. You spend a lot of time walking backwards, blowing limbs off of corpses, scrounging for equipment and ammunition, reading files that get progressively more unhinged, and working to unlock escape routes. As you accumulate more and better weapons, the threats you run into get more powerful and numerous, and the levels become incrementally trickier.

So far, so good. The problem is that Garage can't take it all the way home. It's shockingly under-designed, and its simplistic pixel art isn't up to the challenge of adequately guiding you through each stage. You have to guess a lot of the time whether or not an object is a box, a gate, a switch, or meaningless map clutter. In the event that you encounter some new feature, such as the motorcycle you ride for all of 30 seconds early on, the game doesn't explain a thing about how to use it, leading to a series of cheap, experimental deaths as you try to figure out how the driving controls are meant to work. It's easy to run into a dead end where you simply aren't guided where to go, or, less frequently, end up stuck because something you needed just refused to spawn.

There's also something to be said here about how the most dangerous enemy in the game is, without question, rats. When they show up in a swarm in close quarters, you're probably dead because your standard firing arc goes over their heads, and the only lock-on mechanic requires you to stand still for a second. Thus, rats can rush you down in seconds without fear of retaliation. In a game where I'm regularly put up against flesh-crafted zombie creations the size of city buses, I'm only really scared of rats.

There's the seed of a good game here, but it's underdeveloped. Garage has style and wit to spare, but its cheap deaths, poor map design, murky graphics, and frequent bugs all add up to a frustrating experience. I'm usually willing to give any zombie game more credit than most sensible people would, and even I can't recommend this.

Score: 6.0/10

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