When you hear the word Garlic, guaranteed you're thinking of the odorous ingredient commonly found in pasta sauce or sausage. In this situation, Garlic is the name of a precise action-platformer that stars an onion-headed character who dreams of climbing the Sacred Tower. Once he reaches the top, the Cyber Goddess will grant our hero Garlic one wish. I have a love-hate relationship with games like this. I love the sense of accomplishment you get when you clear a level or a boss, but at the same time, the game is incredibly frustrating to play! I am eager to see if developer Ratalaika Games S.L. has created a game that feels fair and addictive or if it feels overpowering and pungent like its namesake.
As you ascend the tower, each level that you play through feels like its own puzzle where you have to chain your moves together while avoiding enemy fire. Garlic has a few options of actions that he can use in this 2D platformer: jump, double jump, and boost are what you have to work with. This bulb can actually jump a lot higher than you would expect, making it easy to get up to higher platforms that seem out of your reach. To attack enemies, you can jump on them Mario-style, or you can use your boost to smash into them. This move also destroys blocks and walls that stand in your way. Though, like other platformers, you will have to avoid falling into pits or pools of nasty stuff like sewer water or lava.
Garlic only has seven bars of health at the beginning, so it won’t take long before you die. Fortunately, the game restarts you at the last checkpoint incredibly fast, so you won’t waste time waiting. I am impressed by how close these points are placed; as soon as you make it through the screen you are on, the game lets you save your progress. I really appreciated this as it is a challenging game, and having to go back and play through these sections again would be incredibly frustrating and would probably make a lot of people rage quit.
Between each of the 12 zones, you will play mini-games to try to make the maiden at the top of the tower fall in love with you. If you do well, the love connection will increase, but it can also decrease if you perform poorly. There is a huge variety of mini-games ranging from a space shoot-em-up, a retro-style side-scrolling racer, or even a game where you are trying to avoid stepping on litter and dog poo. They provide a break from the intense action of the main game, and also some comedic moments, like Garlic’s reaction from stepping on a dog poo, is perfectly represented by a face you would see in a meme. Some people may not love the slapstick humour, but I felt that it added a lot of personality and colour to this difficult title.
Each of the zones you visit has a unique colour and theme. Somehow, when going up the tower, you will find yourself in a sewer. It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, but the variety of locations was nice; though the dripping acid from the pipes in the sewer was incredibly aggravating! But the 2D retro-inspired graphics that feel like they are from a Game Boy Color title looked really nice and made the levels fun to explore, usually multiple times, but it helped improve my muscle memory so that I was able to progress after a few attempts. The soundtrack was very catchy, and no matter how many times I would die, it never felt repetitive or distracting. The only time I was annoyed was at myself for making the same mistake multiple times. It reminded me of the frustration I would feel playing Super Meat Boy.
The controls worked very well, but I found that Garlic had a lot more power than I was expecting, so it was very easy to miss a jump because I had jumped too far or shot past a platform when I used the boost move. Each ability has a smaller or larger version, so trying to remember that and quickly adapting to the obstacles took time and a lot of practice. Garlic is the type of game that instantly makes your palms sweaty as you hope that you can make it to the next checkpoint. If you get super frustrated and want to quit, you can just pause the game and save your progress so you can walk away and easily continue where you left off.
If you don’t want to play the story mode, or if you are a fan of speed-running games, there is a separate mode for you to challenge. You select Garlic’s speed, and you try to jump over the pits and gaps; trying to take out enemies that get in your way as you auto-run forward. There are a variety of bosses that pit you against insanely strong monsters or lead to panic-inducing chase sequences. I found this mode to be incredibly addictive, though unfair if you were forced to face off against an enemy that felt overpowered.
Garlic is an incredibly challenging title, but no matter how many times I failed, I kept coming back for more. The adorable onion-headed hero on a quest for love is super cute and endearing; you can’t help but cheer for Garlic. This is one of the most delightfully crazy games that I have played in a long time. If you love hard games that will test you, this is a title you need to hunt down. If you hate difficult titles, it may be best to skip this one, as you will not have a good time!
Garlic (Reviewed on Xbox Series S)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Garlic is a retro-inspired 2D platformer that is full of crazy humour and personality. It is challenging but incredibly rewarding when you make progress; Garlic definitely makes your palms sweat!