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Garage Review: Claustrophe

/ Jun 20th, 2018 No Comments

Garage Review

Garage is a game that is not afraid to take risks. That top-down shooter does some cool things in terms of aesthetic, atmosphere, storytelling and sound design — risks that many developers are not willing to take. The result is something unique, but the risks don’t pay off in terms of gameplay.

Here’s the Plan, Butch

Locked in the trunk of a car inside an underground parking garage, Butch finds himself battered and beaten with no memory of how he got there. Fires are raging and burned-out cars and destruction is all around him. To make matters worse, he finds a corpse that looks like died of a grizzly bear attack. Everything about the garage means trouble, so Butch knows he has to escape. But that may not be so easy.

While Butch tries to find himself an exit, things start to get downright loony. What he thought was a corpse jumps up off the ground and tries to bite him. That isn’t the only bizarre occurrence on his mission to find a way out.

He starts hearing voices: first his father, then a mysterious woman named Anaconda. His father admits to being a hallucination, but he doesn’t know what to make of Anaconda except that she has useful information and promises an escape. Butch doesn’t know what to trust, but he knows that leaving the garage is in his best interest.
 

Garage Review

Papa don’t preach, but he also might not exist.

From the very beginning, Garage’s narrative is unreliable. Butch wakes up with no memory and immediately takes strange pain pills he finds. As he explores the garage, he starts hearing voices and finding documents. He stumbles across surreal TVs either broadcasting self-aware news or playing unbelievable footage. At every turn, Garage blurs the line between reality and drug-addled hallucination.

Garage’s story does its best to keep you guessing what is real and what isn’t. If you suspend your disbelief and take the story at face value, there is a lot of depth to uncover about the world. Figuring out the mystery of this game involves reading everything you find, watching any TV you come across, and listening for nuggets of truth wherever you can.

Fists, Axes, and Guns

Garage’s strongest aspect is how it builds atmosphere through its claustrophobia-inducing level design, gritty and dark color palette, and visceral sound. These elements contribute to an oppressing, terrifying atmosphere where every step feels precarious and nowhere feels safe.

The atmosphere of the garage is one of dread. Every corner feels dangerous and doors spell doom because you never know what horrific creature is lurking behind them. It is the mark of any good survival/horror game when every moment is filled with tension and you feel a paralysis of progress out of fear of what could be waiting for you.
 

Garage Review

Garage’s gameplay has a lot to like about it, but some sequences suffer from a lack of clarity.

The tense atmosphere is matched by Garage’s tough and visceral combat. Butch is constantly at a disadvantage compared to enemies that are voracious and tireless, often better equipped and sometimes simply outright monstrous. Most encounters are guaranteed death unless you think quickly and move even quicker.

However, Butch isn’t a supernatural hero. He is simply a drug dealer with average stamina who can throw a decent punch and manage to make use of weapons he finds. Butch can’t dodge more than a few times before his heart beats too fast and he loses mobility, which means if he isn’t careful a single ravenous zombie can devour him.

What hurts Garage most is some of the clumsy design choices. While the game is built around a steep difficulty, it feels artificial in some spots because you’re unsure of what you’re supposed to be doing. This results in a lot of trial and error where you’re constantly fumbling to figure out what to do in order to move forward.

A troubling instance came during a boss battle involving an enemy who can spawn rats. The game did not make it clear until you get guns that the rats can only be killed by bullets. Another frustrating portion of the game was a completely nebulous motorcycle section that involves avoiding exploding barrels and maintaining speed to make a final jump.

As annoying as those moments can be, they are a few blotches on an otherwise good game. The boss fights Butch finds himself thrown into are fantastic. They echo what Garage does best, which is build a tense, scary atmosphere. Butch finds himself on the opposing side of overwhelming odds, but it leaves you feeling satisfied once you overcome them.

There are also a lot of different puzzle-like scenarios that come up throughout the game, such as having to commit a prison break. You have to outsmart powerful armed guards and avoid cameras while trying to construct a weapon. These add a lot to the game.

Overall

Garage is another unique indie game for the Nintendo Switch. The storytelling tries some intriguing stuff in terms of reliability and reality. It stumbles when it comes to certain gameplay sequences where clarity breaks succumbs to trial and error. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it keeps Garage from hitting as hard as it should.

Garage was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.

 

Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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GARAGE REVIEW: CLAUSTROPHE

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall82%

GAMEPLAY7.5

Garage's gameplay has a lot to like about it from its steep difficulty to its visceral combat, but some muddled gameplay sections can be extremely frustrating.

GRAPHICS8

Garage looks gruesome and gritty, but its darkness doesn't help in some of the more unclear gameplay moments.

SOUND9

Sound design in Garage is where it shines the brightest. Every moment in the game feels tense and harrowing thanks to subtle touches like Butch's heart beat or faint sounds in the distance.

STORY8.5

Garage's bold storytelling constantly keeps you guessing at what is real and what isn't. The unreliable approach to a zombie apocalypse creates a compelling and complex narrative.

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