Top-down shooters are nothing new, they have been around for years. Over more recent years, games such as Hotline Miami and Mr. Shifty show that the genre isn’t going anywhere just yet. Garage is yet another such game, although it has to be said from the start, that this one doesn’t quite reach the highs of those aforementioned titles, especially Hotline Miami. The most important thing to note, however, is that Garage is still fun, albeit in short doses.
You play as a drug dealer called Butch who, after waking up in the boot (trunk) of a car, has to fight his way through hordes of the living dead. While a mysterious soldier named Anaconda acts as your guide, giving you useful hints and tips as you progress. There is an uneasy tone during the first sections of the game, everything around you is broken, blood is splattered around the place and it’s eerily quiet. Notes can be found scattered across the various levels and help create some further backstory. It sets up the game nicely and it got me intrigued, as I wanted to know what had happened and what was going to happen throughout the course of the game.
The easiest way I can describe the gameplay of Garage is to simply say, it’s like Hotline Miami. Of course, as I mentioned at the start, it isn’t as brilliant as that title (and there’s no real shame in that), but you get a general idea if you envision that. Combat can be both wonderful at times and painfully annoying and infuriating in others. The reason for this is because enemies somehow manage to get attacks in on you even though you have attacked first. It feels a bit random, you’re just never sure. I get that it shouldn’t be incredibly easy to mow down every enemy you see, but when you know you have attacked first and still get hurt, it starts to become annoying. But again, at times, combat can feel every bit as good as it does in other games of this ilk. If it would be constantly like this, then the experience would be so much better. I did find that Garage got better as guns started to get implemented as they feel much more natural in this game than melee weapons do.
Believe it or not, but rats are in fact the most annoying enemies in the game, as they require you to kick them in order to kill them. Kicking is done with the ZL Button but it is also very slow and doesn’t have great reach. Add that to the fact that rats aren’t the easiest enemies in the game to see and you have yourself an enemy that, while weak, will constantly deal damage and will infuriate you further, the more you encounter them.
As you make your way through the various levels, new items become accessible, which might not only help you in terms of dealing with enemies but also in terms of progressing through environments. An early example is when you gain an axe, not only does it deal with enemies much quicker than punching does, it also allows you to break the locks off doors in order to proceed, rather than having to find a key, which is what you would have had to have done before getting the axe.
Garage isn’t a massively difficult game on the normal setting once you understand the unpredictable combat a little better. When I say it isn’t difficult, I don’t mean you won’t ever die, because you will, I simply mean that you will take a lot of deaths that are down to multiple enemies spawning and pinning you down because you obviously didn’t know they were going to be there. Once you respawn, you now know where these enemies are going to be and you’re able to take them down with relative ease. I never once died in the same section twice, because the whole reason I died wasn’t that it was difficult. I also found that health was given back to you a bit too frequently, of course, you can receive damage from enemies when you shouldn’t have but I just found that I constantly had a full supply of medkits.
Garage looks and feels like an old 80’s/90’s B-movie, which for me is a plus point, but I know it won’t be to everybody’s taste. It has great atmosphere throughout and a pretty adrenaline-charged soundtrack to go with it in sections. There are moments when the game turns into some crazy hallucinogenic nightmare/dream. These portions look pretty impressive and serve up a nice change to the general look of the game. Walls become all jaggy and the colours are all over the place, but in a good way.
Performance wise, Garage runs fine with no major hiccups. Sure, it doesn’t look quite as crisp or sharp when playing in Handheld mode but it’s not a big problem. I did notice that whenever the game auto-saves, there is a slight jitter or pause that occurs that can be a little off-putting, but again, it’s nothing that kills the experience and can be easily overlooked, it’s just something to keep in mind.
Once all is said and done, I can’t help but feel like Garage could have been so much more. It has some great aspects, don’t get me wrong, but the potential is there for all to see and maybe some extra development time was what the game needed to finetune certain things. As it is, what you will find is a game that you will have a lot of fun with, but one that also grows repetitive the more you play. I just kept thinking that there are much better games out there that share a lot of the same ideas.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by tinyBuild