Monday 14 August 2023

Garlic Review (Switch)

We’ve said this before, but the Switch is absolutely stocked full of hardcore platformers for people looking to speed run their way through hell. As such, it takes a lot to stand out. We hadn’t heard much about Garlic but after a few minutes we knew this was something special.

Garlic certainly is another of the hardcore platformer brigade, but it has a very different feel than pretty much all the others out there. Much of this comes from the games offbeat humour and it’s unique look. Away from the standard pixel art approach most of these games take, Garlic looks like something that should be running on the BBC Micro and as such has a completely different feel than pretty much everything else in the genre. The simple colour palette and clear visual style is excellent and works perfectly.

Happily, it may look like a BBC Micro game but it runs a hell of a lot smoother than most of the platformers on the system. Your garlic headed guy zips around flawlessly and at a tremendous pace, which is handy as the levels are tough to say the least. You only have a few moves at your disposal, but they allow you to overcome the many obstacles you’ll face. Your main skill set is tied into your super meter. This continually recharges and when full allows you to zoom forward or upwards and can be utilised while jumping or falling. This acts as your main device to get you around the many dangers you face and is also your way of damaging enemies. You can also cling to walls for a limited period.

Though Garlic may be tough it rarely asks you to do anything twice due to an excellent checkpoint system. These come in two forms depending on the level you are in. Some levels are longer scrolling sections and these often have the standard checkpoint flag situated somewhere within them. About ninety percent of the time this will be exactly where you want it to be after short but tough sections. On other levels Garlic takes another inspiration from its retro past and saves when you leave a screen. A lot of the levels take the single screen approach and don’t scroll. This helps frame single screen puzzles for players to overcome before moving onto the next with the confidence that you won’t need to repeat anything if you die. There’s some clever level design which utilises this single screen approach as well which shows real creative thought.

Aside from the main 2D platforming, Garlic also throws a number of mini games at you which brings out a lot of the games weird humour. For instance, the first mini game has you walking into the screen trying to avoid treading on dog poo while a later one has you queuing up waiting to play on an arcade machine while you get increasingly frustrated.

Overall, Garlic is a wonderful surprise. It’s one of the most creative, smooth and accomplished platformers of this type we have ever played. It seems destined to be overlooked as there's very little hype around it but this is crazy as it’s a genuine classic. We absolutely loved playing through Garlic from start to finish. Yes, it is tough but the fact the checkpoints work so well means you are always making small progress and it keeps unnecessary frustration as bay. It’s unique look perfectly hits the nostalgic vein and does so in a different way to pretty much everything else. We can’t recommend this enough, it’s a retro inspired indie classic.

Overall 10/10

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