LadiesGamers Game Builder Garage

Game Builder Garage Review

Game: Game Builder Garage
Genre: Education
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer|Publisher: Nintendo
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: US $29.99 | UK £26.99 | EU € 29,99
Release Date: June 11th, 2021

Review code provided with many thanks to Nintendo

Enter The Garage

Back on the good old WiiU Nintendo released Mario Maker. A wonderful opportunity for fans to create their own Super Mario levels and share them with friends. Back then I always wondered: what if Nintendo took this idea further and let gamers make their own games and not just be confined to the Mario template. The answer to this comes in the form of Game Builder Garage. A game-making tool, designed to let you create the game of your dreams whilst also learning a little about game programming along the way.

LadiesGamers Game Builder Garage
There’s something fishy going on here

Learn to Create Games

Game Builder Garage is split into two features: Interactive Lessons, which teach you how to create seven different types of games step by step and Free Programming, which lets you have at it with the tools of the game to create your own game from scratch. The former is of course where most people will start. 

LadiesGamers Game Builder Garage
Every node gets its own intro with a silly fun voice

When you jump into the tutorials you are welcomed by an overly excited orb called Bob, which seems related to the fairy from Zelda Ocarina of Time in that it makes consistent silly noises at you. This character takes you step by step through the game making progress and how to use the tools available to craft something wonderful.

You’re given two screens to view; the game screen where you see your game in action and the programming screen which looks like a large piece of orange math paper. It’s in the programming screen where the magic happens. Here you summon nodes and connect them together to create all sorts of clever programming tricks to make the game come to life.

LadiesGamers Game Builder Garage
Another tutorial complete

Lead by the Hand

For the first two game-making tutorials, you are led very much by the hand on which objects to select, which lines to draw and features to tweak. The game blanks out other options so you don’t make a mistake. It’s a good idea on paper but doesn’t do the best job in helping you necessarily learn and take in each of the steps that have just happened. I kinda felt like I should take notes as I went through in order to memorize the techniques better.

The game does try to combat this with an additional feature in the tutorials. When you finish a tutorial, a new red orb Alice (who is less excitable) tests your knowledge by giving you a few pre-made game scenarios and asks you to solve the problem by yourself. They’re not overly difficult and help to reinforce the skills you learn in the tutorial.

One niggle is all 5 challenges have to be completed before moving onto the next game tutorial. If you struggle the game does offer an extensive in-game manual that lets you go back through tricks and techniques, including how-to videos. These will be automatically linked to the challenge you struggle with. While useful I couldn’t help feeling I would have fared better if I had a physical manual next to me while trying to refresh my mind about certain programming skills. I wonder if this may be coming later? 

LadiesGamers Game Builder Garage
Things can seem complicated to start with, so take your time

Family Friendly

The overall feel of the game is quite family-friendly and very much Nintendo. All the programming nodes you meet have silly voices which will probably make the young ones giggle. Each time you finish a tutorial all the characters on the screen “say well done” and compliment you on your progress.

The game engine used is 3D but you can craft all sorts of game types. 2D platformers, racing games, puzzle games, space shooters, mystery games, even 2 player games. The range is really only limited by your imagination and I can easily see a lot of clever clogs out there making some truly unique ideas with this engine.

We’ll probably also see hundreds of Mario 64 clones but I guess that’s to be expected. There are of course some limitations, you are confined to the tools available which some may interpret as quite restrictive. It’s unlikely you can literally recreate Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but you can still make a pretty decent adventure game. For someone trying to get used to game development on a beginner level, it feels appropriate. 

LadiesGamers Game Builder Garage
You can even make your own motion control game

Handheld Tweaks

The ideal way to play is in handheld mode. All of the game making tools are touch-sensitive. You can zoom in and out of your creator screen and drag and drop objects with ease. I guess this is an odd review where I say the controls are what you make them. After all, you are creating the game. You can make a game that uses buttons, analogue sticks as well as making use of the switches motion controls. There are a lot of options available to you.

LadiesGamers Game Builder Garage
Think my spaceship art could do with improving

The game-making tool feels quite reminiscent of Mario Maker in that you can instantly switch between testing your game and making adjustments to the mechanics with absolutely no load times. So, when you’re trying to get the gravity level just right or tweak the control inputs, you can instantly switch back and forth until you are happy.

I wasn’t able to make the next gaming masterpiece. Think I’ll need several weeks, possibly a year to do that. But I did have a lot of fun playing around with the tools. I often found the easiest way to learn was to reverse engineer stuff I learned in the tutorials. Though it’s likely I won’t be creating the next big Nintendo title anytime soon.

There are many settings you can tweak about

You are the Young and Curious

At this stage, I would only recommend purchasing Game Builder Garage if you are looking to create your own games. The game does require a lot of time investment to get used to the programming mechanics and how things work.

To me, the ideal way to enjoy this game is to take your time going through the tutorials at your own pace. For some, this will be weeks, others months. For some what’s going to appeal most is playing around with the generous amount of settings and creating something truly unique to you. But if you’re just here to play games, this tool is not going to be for you.

The overall feel of the game feels quite kid-friendly which may put off the older audience. Even the marketing surrounding these games seems more tailored to that crowd. This is not a bad thing at all, after all, kids have more time than adults. But if you are a creative adult don’t let the style put you off. The game feels nicely suited to anyone that is just curious to create their own games but doesn’t know where to start. If you feel there is something there and you want to turn it into a career this may just convince you to take on a proper programming course and learn more. 

LadiesGamers Game Builder Garage
This node knows how to compliment me

Truly the biggest appeal is to make a game and share it with family and friends. You can share your game code online and have other people play. Some will criticize the lack of online features at this stage, which will likely come later.

I would say if you do make any game yourself you should be darn proud of yourself as game development is crazy hard. Don’t worry what strangers on the internet think. But I think the prospect of a kid making a cute little game and sharing it with one of their parents is going to create some utterly timeless memories for some people. 

LadiesGamers Game Builder Garage
Can you find the hidden message?

Conclusion – Build it, Share it

Game Builder Garage is a unique title for anyone that wants to create a game with no prior programming knowledge. Whether you’re old or young this game provides lots of tools to let your creative juices flow. A wonderful experience to share with a family or loved one.

Whether you’re a brand new budding game developer or you just want to have fun creating games, Game Builder Garage is a great way to express yourself. 

Final Verdict: I Like It a Lot

I like it a lot

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