tinyBuild; Nintendo Switch eShop; £13.49(4 / 5)
Since launching in March 2017, the Nintendo Switch has become a one-stop shop for indie titles. Keen to shake off the failure of the Wii U and overall malaise it found itself in, Nintendo has embraced indie gaming this generation; its digital shelves are literally teeming with top quality releases.
While many of us are still pouring hours into the well established big hitters like Minecraft or Stardew Valley, there’s still plenty to see and do in Nintendo’s new playground.
So it’s sometimes easy to miss a fair few game releases if you’re not paying attention. Garage is one such example; it launched to pretty much zero fanfare in a crowded window. It landed the same week as Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze and only a week after the Nintendo Labo launch sent fans (acting and looking) crazy. Needless to say, most of us were pretty preoccupied.
There’s also the fact that the game’s title, whilst apt, is not perhaps the punchiest or most memorable (or googleable for that matter).
Which is a shame, because Garage is a really enjoyable game. Billed as a ‘bloody top-down, twin-stick shooter, inspired by VHS style B-Movies’ it certainly lives up to its bold claims.
From the outset it’s clear where the developers were channeling their inspiration. Think Hotline Miami, mixed with Dead Nation, but with its own unique styling. The visuals aren’t the most retro I’ve seen – they exist in some weird 16-bit era crossover – but the pixelated graphics are set behind subtle artificial scanlines for added effect. The cinematic opening plays out nicely and sets the tone for what’s to come.
And what’s to come? Yep, you guessed it. Zombies. And gore. Buckets and buckets of gore. This is one of the bloodiest zombie survival games I’ve played on any platform (even more impressive when you consider that Nintendo has allowed this on their ‘family-friendly’ console alongside Super Mario Odyssey and Splatoon 2).
Pretty much from the off, you will be hacking, slashing and blasting your way through the underground car park which serves as the game’s backdrop. Garage does a nice job of pulling you in slowly, ramping up the tension and giving you just enough education to perform, before introducing you to the grim reality of your surroundings.
The zombies are fast and lethal. Sometimes one hit is all it takes to make everything fade to black. Which makes exploring the labyrinthine rooms and corridors of Garage even more heart pounding. A rudimentary fog-of-war style mechanic means that you can’t see what’s behind a door or around a corner until you take a deep breath and step forward.
And it’s not just zombies that can overpower you. Giant rats and a sinister military force are also on the prowl. Fortunately you can use the game’s excellent sound design to your advantage when coming up against the more salient enemies in the game.
Boss battles happen every few chapters, and whilst they are very tough at times, it doesn’t feel like a chore to rinse and repeat your last attempt.
The story, while slightly contrived (but what zombie games aren’t these day?) is spun out in a series of vignettes between levels, as well as uncovered in the various computer terminals and written logs found scattered through the game.
There are some very surreal moments at certain junctures, which I won’t spoil in this review. But suffice it to say that the developers did a great job of using the retro graphics to their advantage, with some sequences making for a very trippy and quite unique experience.
If you’re in the market for a top-down, twin stick shooter for your Switch, Garage is definitely worthy of your attention.