The Switch is sort of in that weird in-between spot where there aren’t any huge first-party games coming out, and third-parties are still trying to see where they fit in Nintendo’s space. Enter indie titles. Garage, developed by tinyBuild, is a top-down shooter looking to spice up the Switch’s library. It certainly does provide a unique and sometimes fun experience, but its warts are hard to look past.
Garage is supplanted in front of an 80s B-movie-like zombie movie environment. The typical zombie tropes apply; survive the zombies, uncover the role an evil corporation plays and so on. It is all here, and unravels in a somewhat interesting way. Butch, the playable character who is also a drug dealer, stumbles upon far more than he was begging for in what was supposed to just be a simple garage. The twists and turns are neat; although, the twists can be seen coming from quite a ways away. Garage delves into some trippy drug-like aesthetics but should have certainly leaned further into that idea. Each level’s environments were a bit unique from the last, but the seldom-used trippy visuals and ramped up music were far more interesting than the vast majority of the game’s settings. Where the environments were a bit of a let down, Garage did a great job of slowly unraveling its core mechanics.
As Butch progresses further and further into what lies beneath the Garage, weapons are doled out and accessed via a weapon wheel. Each weapon is more powerful than the previous, and thankfully, ammo isn’t ever really much of a concern. This is a fantastic thing because you will be going through a ton of it, partially because certain enemies are bullet sponges but also due to the fact that your weapon accuracy will be dreadfully low. Top down shooters require absolute precision, and that just isn’t in Garage. Shooting requires far too much tact and skill, especially when being charged by two or three zombies. What should be a tense moment strictly turns to frustration when you waste half a clip at an enemy two feet away. The issue doesn’t entirely reside on the aiming mechanics; the enemy mechanics are just as questioning.
The enemies in Garage, while not all that varies, do provide a unique challenge for both good and bad reasons. The zombies are far closer to World War Z-style speed than they are something like the slow walkers from The Walking Dead. They are extremely agile and react to being surprisingly well when being shot. They will still stumble toward you, or crawl with half of their bodies dragging behind. There are also bigger fat zombies that work as boss fights that tend to have a unique mechanic that must be avoided. At times, these turn into a mini bullet hell sequence. Sadly, they also provide one of the most annoying enemies the game has to offer… rats.
They are small, hard to aim at, and you have to press the kick button far earlier than you think you should. They are strangely annoying and had forced me to the checkpoint just before the boss fight plenty of times. Later in the game, a wrench is tossed into the mechanics, and you have to fight humans armed to the teeth. This change leads to a far more aggressive play style, but also some larger issues. Enemies aren’t visible until you get a certain distance to them, so sometimes walking around a corner you think is empty actually has a person waiting to blow you away. This turns the game into far too much trial and error and pretty much throws strategy to the wayside.
As for its performance on the Switch, it’s usually not bad. Having said that, there are times where it would drop a ton of frames, thankfully this was usually just during an auto-save sequence. Handheld mode seems to run close to the same as docked, however it is even harder to control and the dark atmosphere is even harder to see. This was definitely one of those titles where I had to keep making sure that I had the brightness all the way up.