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Garlic – Review

Having made its just from PC to console, I took the opportunity to pick up Garlic, a meme filled comedic hardcore platformer that had became a cult classic among a niche audience. Whilst the comedic nature of the game certainly pulled in some crowds, its the moment to moment gameplay that I was most impressed with this. This is a tricky hardcore 2D platformer to play, but incredibly rewarding and satisfying to get right.

Hardcore platforming that will keep you on your toes – there is a rhythm to it too.

Garlic is the main character, climbing a tower to hopefully fall in love with the maiden at the top. Depending on how well you play minigames in between the standard levels, the love connection will increase or decrease. The variety of minigames and how well they are put together really surprised me. There’s an old school sidescrolling racer, a shmup, some comedic basketball inspired tidying up and some silly avoid-em-ups among others and they add plenty of colour and character to the game.

Most of the time you’ll be 2D platforming and Garlic handles like Super Meat Boy inside a pinball machine. Garlic can jump, jump, double jump and boost. You can infinitely wall jump up a wall and you can also scramble too. Most moves have a smaller or larger version of it depending on either how long you press or what button you press. This is key because often you have to dodge rhythmic projectiles or things close to the walls and so using a shorter scramble and not a wall jump will keep you alive. When it comes to jumping, there is some momentum based power to it as you can combine jumps with boosts to pinball about the level on fire with a giant head. I found this move really difficult to control, but its incredibly useful at times to use as levels get incredibly fast and so boost jumps become a handy tool.

Garlic’s face makes many surprised sweaty gestures throughout the experience!

Levels are like 30-40 rooms that all act like individual puzzles. Avoiding fire or enemies is crucial but also chaining moves is required too. This is where some marmite level design may annoy some players. This game is difficult and Garlic ups that difficulty by making the distance between jumps not match up with how far a short or long jump will take you. This means you’ll often have to jump, realign, then jump again seamlessly before you are killed by whatever is chasing or attacking you. That is tricky and it results in many, many deaths. Checkpoints are thankfully liberally used but sometimes it does feel a bit unfair that nothing lines up properly on purpose.

Variety of the spice of life for Garlic and that includes adding isometric levels! These took me a little getting used to but they function like endless runner levels. You adjust Garlic’s speed and jump over gaps or biff enemies by lining up with them as you auto run forward. Bosses are also wildly varied and can result in frantic chase sequences or clever battles against grossly overpowered monsters.

The isometric runner levels add variety and the other minigames are surprisingly well done.

All of this is wrapped up in slapstick comedy, a great chiptune soundtrack and a visual style that takes me back to the late 80s and early 90s that I adore. I think Garlic gets away with being so hard because it does it with a wink and a nudge and so you can’t help but be charmed by it. I genuinely came into Garlic thinking it’d be a fun but throwaway platformer and I came away with some of the most fun I’ve had in a 2D platformer in 2023. It’s not for the faint hearted (although the platinum is relatively straightforward ala Ratalaika’s standard fare) but it is a memorable, wild ride. I hope you get the good ending too…

Review copy provided by the publisher. PS4/5 versions tested for review.

Final Thoughts
It might be full of memes, but Garlic can hold its own on the gameplay and style side too. Surprisingly great.
Hardcore platforming that requires patience, skill and pattern memory - this is hard.
Variety of gameplay styles keep things fresh and interesting.
Decent retro soundtrack.
Garlic's face made me chuckle throughout.
Multiple endings depending on how well you've done in key challenges.
Sometimes the mismatch of jump length and platform gaps gets a bit annoying when you are dying all the time.

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