Garage Review

God, it's just so close, you know?

Okay, let's talk. Garage is a top-down, twin-stick shooter exclusive to the Switch, a title in the vein of Hotline Miami, or Smash TV, to name a few. This one's set in a zombie apocalypse, with supplies short and the dead hungering for the flesh of the living.

Quick sidenote, we gotta address zombie apocalypses. They're a pretty...Well, depending on how tired of them you are, either a classic or a cliche'd premise. I certainly won't lie, they're pretty common. How much that bothers you will depend on a lot of things, not least of which being how many times you've played zombie games lately. Real talk, if you're tapping out now because you're just so tired of the undead, I totally get it.

Good news for Garage, though, I'm not tired of the undead yet.

So the game starts you off by waking up in the trunk of a car, having to force your way out in the all kinds of fucked up wreckage of a parking garage where shit went wrong.

Things get worse for our hero from there, which is almost impressive.

Storywise, you've got your classic beats here. Things went wrong, science went too far, the dead walk and hunger, and so on and so forth. The game's riffing on some very vintage ideas here, and isn't trying to reinvent the wheel.

Rather, it's trying to make that wheel look like it belongs in a grindhouse film's crappy VHS bootleg, from the scanlines to the warped color palettes to the copious amounts of gore.

Gameplay wise, we're again looking at some pretty classic stuff here. We're in the 'ammo counts' style of twin-stick shooter, so you've got an actual distinct firing button instead of just aiming equalling a spray of gunfire. Unlike some games in this style, though, your arsenal is fixed, carrying from one chapter to the next as you slowly grow it.

It's all pretty straightforward stuff, and largely well executed. You've gonna move from point A to point B, detour around blockades or to find keys or whathaveyou, chop zombies with your axe or shoot them with your gun, occasionally run into a big boss-type monster that will need many shots with your gun, struggle to stay alive, all classic beats.

And in the early chapters, in particular, this all works quite well. You're fed just enough story to stay engaged, your enemies work well, and they complement the gameplay as it currently stands quite effectively. Zombies with a nice, straightforward run at you make lining up a shot, or having enough time to wind up a big swing on the axe, pretty solid and satisfying stuff. There's some roughness around the edges, but it holds together pretty well, and the sound design just sells the power behind some of these attacks.

Now here's the part where things start falling apart at the seams.

Like a lot of zombie plots, there comes a point at which other humans get involved, soldier-types trying to contain this twisted plague by putting down as many undead as possible. You, being an unknown quantity in a scorched-earth policy, are also on their shit-list.

And this is basically the exact moment where the rough edges of the game start getting caught on things.

Because the soldiers don't act like the zombies, or the rats, or any of the other enemies in the game. All the undead enemies operate on, ultimately, the same core principle; they're melee attackers that want to close in on you, and will do so very directly. This is what makes killing them so doable, that you only need to shoot roughly in their direction because they'll be closing in so quick the bullets won't have a lot of room to miss.

The soldiers, though, will either come around at you in a semi-circle pattern, or will hold their ground and shoot from a distance. And they do a lot more damage than the undead, to boot, from an actual distance. Where the game's limited aim correction means you're a lot more likely to miss, especially while trying to bob and weave, or dodge-roll, out of the way of gunfire. (or worse, grenades)

In the early phases, it's not a big deal. You mostly face pistol-wielding scouts, you've got a big chunky shotgun, they try to get in close enough that you can be a little rough on your aim and still get the job done. But it's not long into this phase of the game, around two thirds of the way through the listed chapters on the menu, where you start seeing more riflemen, who will just stand their ground and pour a lot of lead down-range at you. (Also, there comes a point where I was clearly supposed to have a rifle, judging by all the rifle ammo, but had somehow missed it. Which is, not great.)

And that, right there, is where the game goes from pretty fun and cool, to really frustrating. I found an exact moment where the gameplay loop completely changed on me, in a room where I had to fight my way through a few rifle-wielding soldiers and a grenadier to get to a security console, which would open the way forward...And let in another handful of riflemen, who were set to hunt me down, not stand there, so I couldn't even duck in and out of cover to deal with them.

So I find myself at another one of those "god if they'd fix this one thing" moments with a game. Because up until then, I was all ready to say this one was Worth Buying.

And it's not like it would need to be totally redone from the ground up, either. Lower the damage you take to gunfire, work in some aim assist, maybe even a lock-on. Drop the amount of soldiers a bit. This is another of those cases where the issues here are pervasive, but are so heavily at the mechanical level that they can be patched.

I'm not saying don't ever buy it. I'm just saying, watch for a patch. If and when one comes, if it clears up these handful of issues, then the game could mature into something pretty damn cool.