Garage: Bad Trip, the debut effort from developer Zombie Dynamics, is a unique look at a tried and true genre. Inspired by the 80s, Hotline Miami, and schlocky horror films, it takes all of its influences and manages to stand out just the same.
Taking on the role of Butch, the player wakes up in an unknown location, and unsure of how they got there. Along the way to discover what happened, the player is attacked by all manner of creatures, such as zombies, rats, humans, and humanoid-centipedes. Play progresses smoothly, with the difficulty and tension ramped up at a nice pace the further one goes. Mechanics such as the top-down perspective combined with line of sight feature ensure that the player never knows what exactly is behind a door or corner–indeed, tense moments arise wherein one enters a room and spots an enemy, but upon backtracking for cover or space, they are lost until they are within that line of sight again. This makes for many close calls, and sometimes even more frustrating deaths. Fortunately, Garage: Bad Trip boasts a checkpoint system that saves often, but do not quit until a new chapter begins and it saves.
Combat consists of melee, ranged weapons, and explosives. The player can only punch and kick at the beginning, but a fire ax and a pistol can be found not too far into the game. Hitboxes are solid and aiming feels real, as if one is genuinely playing as some average guy who happened to be thrust into this nightmare. Sometimes, animation lock can be a detriment when mobbed by zombies or the rats that attack, but it only encourages a better strategy upon reloading from the last checkpoint. The line of sight feature makes the experience even tenser when the player has firefights with soldiers later in the game. An actual health bar ensures no cheap one-shot deaths, but attacks from most enemies hurt and can add up quickly if one is not careful. Medkits, food, and energy drinks can be found almost anywhere to refill, and energy drinks boost the player’s stamina to ensure they move faster and can swing the ax nonstop.
The visual style of Garage: Bad Trip is also a standout; what appear to be 3D models are pixelated, offering the illusion of a classic game, but with a modern look and feel. Textures are appropriately grimy and gory, and the use of color helps useable items, enemies, and destinations come alive against the backdrops. The addition of a VHS-style filter key further compliments the aesthetic Zombie Dynamics was going for, and the added lo-fi feel is excellent. Segments where the player takes a pill to activate a trippy sequence full of swirling colors and flashes, which complement those parts.
Another component that further enhances the atmosphere is the soundtrack. Equal-parts eerie, tense, and adrenaline-fueled, it ensures that players are always dreading and ready to fight what is around each corner. Silence is also used effectively, causing some well-deserved scares that don’t feel cheap and leave the player wondering how they made it out alive. Since its launch on July 6, the developers have not updated the game, but they seem engaged with the community. Upon beating the game, one can go back through to find secrets and unlock achievements, but beyond that, the replayability is muddled but knowing when scripted events happen, and where enemies come from.
Overall, Garage: Bad Trip is a hell of a debut from an indie developer. While some small frustrations can occur in combat, they do not hinder the game’s quality by much, and the result is an enjoyable, fun, and challenging survival-horror experience. For a price of $14.99, it’s recommended for those who enjoy any of the above elements in their games and a throwback to the so-bad-they’re-good horror movies of the 80s.