The game that spoils your breath
It's not exactly any kind of revelation, but there are a lot of modern retro games out there. People argue the toss - with me - about what "modern retro" even means, but you know. A game made now that is intended to feel like a game made then. Perhaps that's not a fair categorisation for Garlic, a game which... I don't even know. I don't know precisely what it's going for. Whatever it is, I think it succeeds. But... (Limmy voice) at what cost? Maybe that was a little too dramatic. But so is Garlic. Sheesh, this one's tough. It has the feel of something like Celeste in terms of pure movement, but traversal of the levels themselves requires very difficult and very different skills, an extrapolation of Celeste's dash move asking what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Or, to put it plainly, have Garlic smash into things.
See, dashing into wall and floors lets you hit the jump button to propel off them at high speed, a move you can repeat multiple times if you don't mind dying, or are - unlikely - good enough to pull it off. It's one of those mechanics-first platform games but with a looser approach to level design, which is to say it's rare that only one possible approach is viable. Often, there's speedrun tech and collectables requiring advanced gameplay but most of the thing is beatable via slightly less absurd means and difficulty. Unfortunately that leaves things in a bit of a muddy spot if you're me and don't really like that sort of thing. That is to say, being good at games. Can't stand it, never have.
I'm kidding, of course, but the amount you get out of Garlic is basically going to be equivalent to what you're prepared to put into it. I think that's kind of a facile statement on the face of it - like, duh - but here it rings particularly true. The baseline gameplay, the level designs, are compartmentalised into what essentially amount to challenge rooms which are, in my view, quite simple to clear if you play carefully. The idea, then, seems to be... not to do that, encouraged by the aforementioned collectables and general speedrun feel of the entire enterprise. So I found myself tiring of the game reasonably quickly, but I wanted to see it through because a) I'm reviewing it and b) I wanted to see the visuals the game would throw out next.
It looks great throughout, you see. The art style is... let's call it "meme horny". The main character is pursuing a love interest in one extremely curvacious "Cyber Goddess" and must climb The Sacred Tower to, well, have a shot at her. Yeah, yeah, I know, but it's just an excuse for jumping and dashing and it's all rendered very well. Reminiscent of Downwell but less abstract. And marrying these visuals with some excellent music is definitely a recipe for a fun time if you're the kind of gamer who wants to push themselves to play better even when it isn't strictly necessary.
Me, I just wanted to see the end. And I did! And then there was another level that was really, really difficult, so I stopped. But still!