Game Builder Garage | Review | Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Nintendo
  • Publisher: Nintendo
  • Release Date: 11/06/2021
  • Price: £26.99 / $29.99
  • Review Code Provided by Nintendo

Introducing: Game Builder Garage Review

Nintendo has had a pretty fun habit recently of putting the burden of making their games for them on players with Mario Maker and then Mario Maker 2. Honestly, it felt like we were going to get something like a Zelda Maker after everything was said and done (and we kind of got it in Super Mario Maker 2), but nothing ever came down the pipeline. That is, however, until just a few weeks ago. Nintendo, being very Nintendo, just decided to drop a big hitter title on May 5th, just 5 weeks before it would release. This game is Game Builder Garage, and honestly, nobody saw it coming. To have something as wild and creative as this promised to be announced with hardly any fanfare and for the low price is a huge deal. So, whaddya say? Wanna make a game?

Let’s talk about Game Builder Garage.

Behind The Scenes

So here’s the main deal with the game: Game Builder Garage gives players the ability to make a wide variety of their own games through the use of little characters called Nodons. Nodons act like little commands that you can give the game to do certain stuff, for instance by adding a “person” Nodon to your game you add a playable character in the game you are creating. There are stacks and stacks of these Nodons that you can use to make nearly limitless game concepts into reality and the game will walk you through each one and how to use it. The game starts simple enough with a simple character who wants to jump on some platforms and get an apple. So you push B to jump only to have your button presses be completely devoid of any reaction on screen. The tutorial shows you that the game is still under construction and guides you the the “garage” to see that the connection between your buttons and the playable character don’t exist! Hook them up real quick and now your little dude can jump. HOW NEAT! This gives you a pretty quick handle on what the game will be doing and the pace it will take with you as you learn to build these games. Each lesson is broken into smaller, bite sized chunks that each teach a specific part of the level building process. For instance, lesson one tells you how to get the camera in the right place and how to get a basic platform. Lesson two is all about making sure your person can move and so forth.

After completing this little adventure, you are greeted by another tutorial character who understands that taking things slow will help rather than speeding through this information. It’s here where you are introduced to the checkpoint system that will meet you at the end of every lesson. These checkpoints just walk you through the concepts you just finished learning, but in more of a retention style challenge (i.e. you just learned how to make things destroy each other. Make this thing NOT destructible). Some people might look at the pacing of thee and say “Yeah, I get it. Just let me move on”, but personally I love the way that it treats me like an idiot for the majority of the time because honestly, as cool of a person that I think I am, I know squat about programming like this. Given, I’ve only been through the first lesson and half of the second, but the hand-holding is nice. Another very kind thing that the game offers is a list of information called the “Nodopedia”, a catalog of every Nodon and a brief summary of what they do. This is especially kind because I rarely feel like going through an entire lesson all over again to remember what that one thing did. The whole experience is set up with the idea that you have no idea what you’re doing and personally, I love it.

Keep it Simple, Stupid

I am a big fan of how clean this game looks for a lot of reasons. These graphics are nothing to write home about because this is not a tool that will help you make the next big Triple-A game, but what they are is simple and to the point. By keeping things clean, clear and easily recognizable it helps the player/user/creator/whatever see where things are connected and how to fix them. If this game were messier, or less visually pleasing then it would not be as great of a tool as it is. Now, that’s not to say that the graphical quality of anything on this game is poor, but it’s more of a testament for how the designers thought about what kind of game they were making and designed it perfectly.

Something I wasn’t quite prepared for was the sheer amount of customization in what you can make and work with. The things that I have seen people make with the tools given in this game are impressive to say the least. I’ve seen full recreations of Ball from Game and Watch all the way to a faithful recreation of F-Zero. In fact, this feels a lot like Nintendo realizing what levels of creativity people could whip up with the tools in Miitopia and running with it. Also, when it comes to the actual “garage” half of the game, things are easily customizable through the tools that are readily available. Nodons are easy to manage and keep organized and the game even makes a point to make sure that you are keeping everything tidy. No qualms here, the game looks good.

A Well Tuned Machine

This game looks and feels as good as you would expect a first party Nintendo release to play. I mean, the game could use a skip button or a fast forward for lessons already understand, but that’s more of a wish list item for a game that didn’t even run a full sixty. I’m not sure what else you’re looking for here, but you’re not going to find bugs. I will say that using a mouse is probably the best way to do things here, as the touch screen isn’t quite as good as I was hoping, motion controls are a joke, and the joy-con controls are alright, if not a bit slow.

That’s A Wrap!

Game Builder Garage came out of the blue to be a solid gateway into getting kids into game development. It’s not a be-all-end-all design tool, but if people can understand this game and all it has to offer then they will be significantly better equipped to use more powerful tools to make better games. I recommend this game to anyone who is interested in trying their hand at designing and programming their own game. For 30 bucks, this is probably one of the best tutorials you’ll get out there.

Pros

  • Solid tutorial for programming with nodes
  • Extensive tools to guide players into making fun things
  • Killer price point

Cons

  • Sometimes, this game treats you like a child
  • Lack of an “I get it” button
  • Not as powerful as you’d hope it is.

Verdict

For the price, Game Builder Garage is a fun tutorial and a great way to get into programming your very own games.