Make a game weird and you have my attention. Make it an FPS and you’ll sell me on it completely. That’s all it took for God Damn The Garden to warrant a review, and the extremely cheap price-tag make me all the more curious as to whether or not this is a title worth checking out.
Is this paradise, or is it destined for eternal damnation?
Many thanks to Ratalaika for the review code.
THE GARDEN OF GOD DAMN
The ‘story’ in God Damn The Garden is as simple as it is stupid. Playing as one of the castaways of the Skeleton Bastard, you have to face the trials within the titular God Damn Garden in order to prove that you are worthy of becoming the next king of Badass Heaven. To do this, you must gather the flesh of the killer bunny and use it to make a special seed sprout and provide a way out of the garden.
As you journey through your trials, you’ll meet plenty of NPCs that acts as both friends and foes, with the former offering lots of inane banter should you choose to engage with them. Once in conversation, you can continue the dreadful dialogue to its end or you can cut it short by choosing the handy ‘kill’ option. Conversing with NPCs can net you with certain rewards, such as new abilities or an easier route, but usually it’s just there for a bit of world-building.
However you take it, the writing is hilariously and consistently awful, with many typos, mistranslations, and just generally badly written dialogue. It’s hard to say whether the writing is made like this intentionally to try and encourage you to ‘cut’ conversations short, or whether it’s just crap. Whilst it is cringeworthy, it does actually seem to add to this weird world and I grew a little fond of it by the end, so I can’t say that the terrible writing was completely ineffective.
A BONE TO PICK
God Damn The Garden dumps you in the centre of this labyrinthine damned garden with nothing but your heart in one hand and a seed-powered machine gun in the other. Nearby lies the seed to your escape, and a few doors over holds the entrance to lair of the rabbit that you’re tasked with slaughtering. Unfortunately that door is sealed and requires the death of the other two dungeon bosses in order to open. So begins your search through the garden to find these behemoths and take them down. Interestingly these can be eliminated in any order, and the second boss is actually easier than the first for some unknown reason.
Your trek to these boss creatures won’t be easy as many foes lie in wait, from surprisingly dangerous bullet-spitting frogs embedded in walls to charging stone faces that can kill you in a single hit. There’s a fair amount of variety on offer here and they require a certain degree of dexterity to take down. Both ammo and health can be filled up using the plants scattered around the garden, and these are in pretty frequent supply meaning that neither will be much of an issue. Your health does go down quickly, causing you to die frequently if you’re not being careful, but the generous checkpoint placement should alleviate any real frustrations you may have.
The God Damn Garden is just as weird as its inhabitants, and the N64 stylings suit it rather well. Its surplus amount of greenery mixed with sliding wooden doors and scattered fires makes it all very reminiscent of the Deku Tree interior from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. The references don’t even end there either, since there are clearly some very strong nods to Nintendo’s series in the enemy roster too. I won’t spoil too many of these foes, but I will say that the creatures inspired by the Redeads are particularly effective as they lurch slowly towards you – usually whilst you’re tangled up in cobwebs. The first time you encounter one is a pretty intense situation.
It’s not all shooting though, and the game does contain some minor platforming here and there to help mix things up. It’s not the best level design on offer, but the mix of traps, enemy placements, and platforming sections helps the game feel fresh despite its short hour and a half runtime. If there’s only one major criticism I have with the game, aside from the crummy dialogue, it’s the lack of any real arsenal to play around with. You will earn a couple of ammo variants from beating the bosses, but it doesn’t really feel that much different aside from the boost in damage. Some extra weaponry to change things up a bit wouldn’t have gone amiss, but the game’s short runtime stops it from becoming too much of an issue.
With its low price point and awful dialogue, I really did not know what to expect going into God Damn The Garden. What I didn’t expect was an almost Zelda-inspired FPS that felt surprisingly fulfilling over its brief runtime. It may not have the deepest mechanics, but anyone looking for some dirt cheap fun should give this one a try!