Waking up in the trunk of a car with no memory of who you are, hey that rhymes! Get ready for an abstract, psychedelic, top down survival horror game with increasingly challenging gun fights, gruesome original enemies, refined pixel art, exploration, investigation, and a gripping story to keep your blood pumping throughout the whole adventure.
STORY / CHARACTERS
Richard Smith is the billionaire owner of a conglomerate operating the largest line of shopping malls (called GARAGE), cosmetic plants, food factories, a robot factory, and even rumored to be housing a secret “innovation center” deep underground. He’s gone missing and now GARAGE is being bombed as the world suffers to deal with the outbreak of some mysterious virus!
Our main character Butch suffers from amnesia but will eventually begin to get his memories back through the help of strange pills that cause hallucinations while temporarily granting powers that change up gameplay in unexpected ways such as seeing through walls. This will aid in the early stage scene of tunneling underground, where Butch unearths the secrets of Smith, his board of directors, private armies, and the horrible experiments that were hidden right underneath GARAGE all along.
Television broadcasts and notes left behind provide background lore to the story while a secondary character code-named Anaconda helps propel Butch forward through his interesting set of constantly changing objectives.
Agent Anaconda does eventually reveal her real name to you, and will even team up with Butch towards the second half of the game. She will lead you against the remaining proponents of humanity’s biggest threat, a number of biological weapons and disasters created by rogue members of the runaway train Smith has left as his legacy. She will also ask Butch to make the ultimate sacrifice. It all culminates in a boss fight against an incredible foe supported by one of nearly every enemy in the game, and a handful of random weapons, as part of the epic finale.
In GARAGE: Bad Trip there’s a good variety to what’s going on at any given moment with everything from an oncoming train full of zombies, a turret-based segment with waves of enemies, optional stealth opportunities, a true stealth mission, combat arena, prison escape, and even a crazy motorcycle ride while being chased by a frenzied pack of undead cadavers. During “near-death experiences” in which everything blurs and Butch must make smart moves to survive. Players are also presented with a limited perspective at all times, sort of a fog of war, which makes poking your head around corners without concentrating a potentially fatal mistake.
This game has a very steady, well balanced pacing as well. Each scene seems to teach you something useful in the future. Food and beverages stolen from vending machines provide small amounts of health. Energy drinks give temporary boosts of adrenaline causing unlimited stamina plus slightly faster movement speeds. Med-kits almost fully restore health. Health can also auto-recover up to about 40% while out of harm’s way, if it’s not already below critical levels. Enemies do a lot of damage, so your health is never far from your thoughts. Items can be somewhat scarce, so it’s important to strategize when to heal, when to melee, when to use your ammo and shoot, and which guns you prefer for each situation.
Level design becomes less linear as the game goes on, putting everything the game taught you to the test. Security cameras are used to preview scenes ahead and plan out the next move. Weapons include the Firefighter’s Axe, Pistol, Grenades, Shotgun, Uzi, M16, AK-47, MP5, Energy Bombs (like bowling but for robot killers), Magnum Revolver, Chemical Bombs, and more. Use your fists and feet when you have nothing else left!
Enemy types include rats (which can be more dangerous than some mini-bosses if not taken seriously), giant rats, the undead, armored zombies (these were once cops or soldiers… until they died), various mutant experiments (some giant and disgusting, some limber and made of various muscles stitched together), a tentacle beast, enemy soldiers (with guns and increasingly better AI as each chapter progresses), very accurate grenadiers, tank riding mutants, two headed dogs, robotic laser turrets, robot tanks, and a lot more.
Even laser tripwire traps, land mines, and explosive barrels stand in Butch’s way (and can work for or against you). But don’t feel too overwhelmed, you can often find keys, bullet proof vests, healing items, ammo, and crafting benches to help you along. Crafting in this game is very basic, but ends up being a relief since it also means you won’t be needlessly back-tracking a whole lot. I am still not sure what to do with the one condom I got from a vending machine though…
There’s such a nice variety of gameplay in this title and it’s all given at what seems like the right moments with a narrative stringing it all together that isn’t taking itself too seriously but makes sense and remains compelling. There’s even a death battle arena in which civilians who got too close to learning the disturbing secrets of these malls are used for weapon testing, or traitors and deserters from the corporate army are forced to fight to the death against endless hordes of zombies. This is just a perfect example of how wild and wreckless action scenes focus on making the game fun first and foremost, but still have a reason for existing that is well explained by story and lore. It all just fits.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, the shoot-outs will get progressively harder and are very fun to work your way through. You can really tell the game is designed well since there’s not a lot of luck involved but instead gameplay, skill, and fun factor reign supreme in GARAGE: Bad Trip. The bullet collision system seems to be flawless with the player forgetting about hit-boxes entirely and the whole game just reacting to input as expected, making the action intuitive and immersive.
GRAPHICS / PERFORMANCE
Art direction here is retro-inspired, fueled by ‘trippy’ visual effects. The texture detail is good enough that you always understand what you’re looking at, and a good layer of anti-aliasing prevents jagged edges from ‘harshing your buzz’. Engine performance is not much of a problem, and this game runs on even a weaker PC with the Nintendo Switch version reportedly doing just as well. That’s a great accomplishment for Zombie Dynamics, the indie studio that developed this game, and another feather is added to tinyBuild’s cap for publishing quality content from a competent team which I’ve never heard of until now. I’m confident enough to say that they’re really putting some great looking games on the map at this point.
SOUND / MUSIC
A very good and original soundtrack is featured with a variety of styles. Sometimes enemy soldiers can be found hanging out together listening to different types of music, workout videos, and other media. There’s some strange commercials from Smith’s company that can be found if you pay attention to everything as well. You could just as easily smash every television without noticing some of this stuff, which has a cool, realistic feeling to it. Sound effects are solid, and while voice acting would have been nice people are usually overly critical of that stuff so I can understand its absence.
Throughout the game there are military key-code secured supply containers. There’s no way to know what the code to these are in your first play-through, and I’m not one for asking google how to play a game, so I can tell that’s something I’ll be coming back for. There’s also secret areas and discoveries that can be found by more meticulous scouring of each level.
Beyond the usual Achievements offered in the Steam version and multiple difficulty settings, players also unlock challenge modes! Labyrinth, Axe-Man, Skirmish, and Arena. These more than make up for any speed runners out there who felt the game’s length could’ve been longer, and provides cool ways to continue interacting with the game once you’ve already beaten the story mode.
GARAGE: Bad Trip has aiming that is so precise, a soundtrack and visuals that are perfectly fitting, design elements that feel so great; it’s really hard to find a fault. The only minor complaints I have include switching between weapons getting a little frustrating in the late game as well as a couple of poorly placed save points. But these moments rarely occur during the game which keeps on delivering top quality fun through excellent gameplay married with a gripping story and well themed supporting features.
Some say this is a Hotline Miami inspired title. Even though I’m a huge fan of that series, I didn’t factor that in as I wanted to give it a chance to be unique. At some points it reminds me of Resident Evil in all the best ways, but ultimately this is a game that stands on its own two feet.
Overall, I am glad to have played this game. It was a very enjoyable experience. There’s a ton of content to keep the fun going even after you beat the main story, which is just so well put together it’s nearly perfect. From fighting zombies, to mutants, to soldiers, then robots, mini-boss battles, and epic scenes that cascade the action and plot in the final act, GARAGE: Bad Trip is absolutely one of RGN’s Platinum Games of 2018 and earns its score of 9.8 out of 10. Whether on Nintendo Switch or a Gaming PC, you must play this game!
RGN Rating 9.8 / 10 (Platinum Game)
Developer: Zombie Dynamics
Publisher: tinyBuild Games
Available On: Nintendo Switch, Steam
Played On: PC
Release Date: July 6, 2018 (PC)
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of this game was provided to RGN for free for the purpose of this review.