Last weekend may have been loaded with all the latest information on exciting new games, but it was also one of the busiest launch periods of the year so far. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade both launched on PlayStation 5, while the indie title Chicory: A colorful story has become an unexpected critic lover. Nintendo also puts its own stamp on the weekend, with fun Game Builder’s Garage.
The new Switch release is not a game and more of a design tool. It allows players to create their own games, while learning the basics of programming. It’s all represented through “buttons,” colorful creatures who literally put faces to complex concepts like physics and button mapping.
As far as game design projects go, Game Builder’s Garage is one of the most understandable and accessible programs available. That’s thanks to something that has long been one of Nintendo’s weakest design strengths: iI’s tendency to over-explain to players.
When a new first-party Nintendo game comes out, there’s usually criticism from fans. The company tends to focus a lot on its in-game tutorials. Play an RPG like Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam and you’ll spend hours being taught how to perform the most basic actions imaginable.
However, there is a good reason for that. Nintendo games appeal to players of all ages, including children. While adults may not need instructions on how to make Mario dance, the company’s youngest players do. That always creates a tough tension, where older players can feel drained by overly authoritarian explainers. Nintendo doesn’t always do a good job of finding the middle ground between all of its players, which can cause frustration among their aging fan base.
Game Builder’s Garageon the other hand, makes perfect use of Nintendo’s handheld trend. The game is basically a series of tutorials. Players learn to build a handful of mini-games from scratch. Each game is broken down into simple steps to introduce new concepts gradually. Players will begin by learning how to make a character move, but within a few hours, they will learn how to create an end goal that only activates when blowing up the right number of enemies in a level.
The game design is incredibly complicated, but Nintendo has made it somewhat awesome here. That’s because it overrepresents every concept until it becomes second nature. When I got to the third tutorial, I was no longer confused about how to make sure the enemy can be turned into a killable object and mark a score counter. It’s hard to forget when the game shows you exactly which settings to check every step of the way.
Nintendo’s curse becomes a gift here. Other programming games can often feel unparsable because the complex system is not well explained. PlayStation 4 title Dreams Is one Extremely powerful tool that allows players to create incredible works of art. It is as complex as an actual game design program. Why spend time learning such a complex program when you can just spend that time learning something like Unity?
Game Builder’s Garage didn’t have that problem. It is purely an educational tool designed to teach players the fundamentals of game design. It teaches concepts and gives players an easy way to explore them with tactile controls and cute pictures. It’s unlikely someone will make the next great video game in Game Builder’s Garage, but it provides the kind of thorough lesson that can inspire confidence for those who want to get into programming.
As far as Nintendo projects on the left, Game Builder’s Garage is a lovely tool for kids and adults. It takes a tough job and makes it close to the playfulness of Mario games. If even one feels inspired to create the next great indie game after toying with it, Nintendo has effectively done its job here.
Game Builder’s Garage Now available on Nintendo Switch.