Wednesday, May 9

Review: Garage [Nintendo Switch eShop]

One genre that the Switch has covered pretty handily is twin-stick shooters. Typically these titles have been either more arcade-like or roguelikes, and if your tastes align with those options you’ve likely been happy. What makes Garage pretty interesting is that it isn’t aspiring to either of those directions, and thus delivers a style of twin-stick shooting play that we haven’t yet seen on the system. With a truly bizarre story, and more of a survival horror take on twin-stick shooting, Garage delivers a surprisingly varied and challenging experience.

You’ll be playing as Butch, a drug-dealing ne’er-do-well who stumbles into a serious situation that requires him to quickly adapt or be killed. While you’ll initially be facing quite a few zombies (and rats that can be somewhat annoyingly lethal), over the course of the game they’re only the tip of the iceberg. Soldiers, mutants, mechanized threats, and somewhat terrifying combinations of all the above rolled into one stand in the way of the mission you only reluctantly agree to take for the mysterious Anaconda who you only know as a voice over the phone. There’s no getting around it, the story is all sorts of messed up and very often you’ll wonder precisely what’s up and question whether everything is a dream, a drug-fueled hallucination, or some combination of all the above. While I won’t ruin the story the climax is well worth working to get to and came as a bit of a surprise. Considering I’m not used to my twin-stick shooters having almost any story to speak of at all this was a definite plus, even if confusing.

While the easy comparison I’ve often seen to this point has been that Garage is Hotline Miami, but with zombies, in many ways it’s absolutely its own animal. It shares a top-down perspective, propensity for violence, and very unusual story beats but where Miami and its ilk are much faster-action shooting games with a mission-based style, Garage does its own thing its own way. Notably, rather than having an omniscient view of everyone at all times Garage has implemented a line of sight mechanic that leaves you wondering what’s around the next corner. This amps up tension in many places as you’ll hear what’s coming for you but you won’t know precisely where it will be. Moving into new spaces is thus a far more strategic affair and you’ll need to be prepared for ambushes, especially when dealing with soldiers who love to be positioned inside doorways where they’re easy to miss until they’re blasting you to pieces from behind. Aside from the style of play being distinct another strength is that the nature of the challenges and enemies you’re having to face will change often, keeping there from being a “more of the same” issue the genre can have a tendency to run into after a while.

All that said Garage isn’t without its faults. First and foremost a concern for less confident and capable shooter fans would be the game’s difficulty, which makes it tricky even on Easy difficulty. Having played both in Normal and Easy the difference isn’t so much the action or the challenge it seems to usually involve the scarcity of resources. While on Easy I tended to be consistently loaded up with health packs and most types of ammo (and you’ll need it all at times) Normal really stepped up the survival aspect and would force me to consider going to my axe more often to conserve ammo for when it was really needed. Another notable issue is certainly the load times between levels, which are a bummer since they break up the action. With some drugged out and trippy sequences, a particular ad that you see early in the game, and an entire scene “cut from the game for budget” I suppose if you aren’t inclined to roll with the punches and have a sense of humor you may also want to pass… or at least loosen up a bit first.

As a whole package Garage is a breath of musty, diseased, and drug-riddled fresh air on the Switch as there’s truly nothing else on the console like it. Not meant to be a quick spray and pray shooter, the variety in the challenges you’ll face, the line of sight mechanic, and the plain old weirdness throughout make it worthwhile if you’re up for the challenge. I’d hope if there’s more to come of this kind it will be a bit more refined next time, but as a first attempt it’s a bold step and I couldn’t stop playing until I’d reached the conclusion.

Score: 8.5

  • A unique combination of twin-stick shooting action and survival horror elements
  • Rather than continuing to simply go with a formula of “more things, and harder” as you progress the gameplay continues to change things up as you get further into the story
  • The game doesn’t take itself very seriously. This can be fun, but if that’s an issue for you feel free to pass

  • Skill levels are uniformly challenging (sometimes even steep) with the biggest difference being the abundance of healing and ammo. Easy is still no cakewalk in key places
  • If you were expecting something more akin to Hotline Miami you’ll likely be disappointed
  • The load times are a bummer