Butch is an ex-drug dealer with a bit of a problem. He's woken up in the boot of a crashed car with no idea how he got there, but a little bit of memory loss turns out to be the least of his worries. He's in The Garage, a huge shopping complex that is currently under fire by unknown assailants. A news broadcast speculates that the attack might be the work of jealous competitors. This is day two of the siege, and ‘survivors’ are still making their way out of the wreckage. But they're behaving strangely, attacking innocent civilians, and there are reports of cannibalism...
Garage is a top-down survival horror shooter, with players roaming the hallways dispatching the undead with a variety of weapons. The opening chapters serve as a tutorial, letting you know what sort of things the game will be expecting you to do. There are secret breakable walls, locked supply boxes with hidden passcodes, and we're even introduced a bit of item crafting. Disappointingly, none of this really ever amounts to much. Secret areas are few and far between, and rarely seem to contain anything you wouldn't be able to find elsewhere in the game. Opening locked boxes involves nothing more than keeping an eye out for numbers on the scenery, and trying the various combinations until one of them works. And crafting only comes into play when the game tasks you with finding certain items and taking them to a workbench before you can progress to the next chapter.
One thing we're never told about is the ‘line of sight’ feature, which makes items and enemies invisible unless Butch has a clear view of them. This makes taking cover nigh on impossible, as enemies will often disappear the second you take cover behind a wall. They're still moving around though, and nine times out of ten they'll suddenly reappear right next to you and maul you to death in an instant. It's frustrating that this was deemed to be an acceptable design decision. While you could argue that it adds a bit of ‘realism’ to the game, it also adds a less than welcome element of guesswork to the already-tricky combat.
On the plus side, Garage looks really nice, albeit a touch dark in places. The pixel art is suitably gory and unnerving, and the hand-drawn illustrations during cutscenes are undeniably well done. There's also an almost ZX Spectrum-like hallucination sequence which turns everything to strobing neon outlines. It's not often you get such a variety of art styles in a game of this kind, and we certainly appreciate the change from plain old pixel art.
A sinister soundtrack adds to the overall ‘80s VHS B-movie vibe and combines with the art and storyline to create a foreboding atmosphere that wouldn't be out of place in a genuine video nasty. Secret experiments, zombies, monsters, huge outlandish bosses, all right up our street for sure. It's a shame then that the gameplay doesn't quite live up to expectations. Garage is enjoyable enough in its own way, but it's hard to shake the feeling that more than a few opportunities were missed here. With some tweaks to the mechanics (tightening up the aiming in particular certainly wouldn't hurt), and a little bit of balancing here and there, this could have been a real gem of a game. As it stands though, unfortunately, there are a few too many frustrations to make this a must-play title.
GARAGE / DEVELOPER: TINYBUILD GAMES / PUBLISHER: TINYBUILD GAMES / PLATFORM: SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW