This week we review something a bit different: Nintendo’s Game Builder Garage. How do you review a game which is all about designing and making games? With great difficulty!
Well, that was the task I was set when turning my hand to Game Builder Garage on the Nintendo Switch last week.
We’ve all had experience of physically building components to be used in Switch games with the brilliant Nintendo Labo kits.
But here you get the chances to actually make your own game. So what’s it all about?
Game Builder Garage: How it works
Nintendo’s GBG uses a visual programming language based on the concept of creatures called Nodons. Nodons represent various aspects of player input, game output, and game logic – like a Stick Nodon that reports input from the Joy-Con analog stick or a Person Nodon that represents an on-screen character.
Confused yet? There’s a reason why game designers have to do so much training and are well paid for their skills. You’ll soon find that out, but, as always, with Nintendo you will have fun in the process.
You build a program by adding Nodons and making connections between the various nodes, for example connecting the Stick Nodon to the Person Nodon, which ties the analog stick to movement of the character on-screen. Nodons can interface nearly all features of the Switch and Joy-Con, including the infrared sensors and motion controls.
Don’t despair! Helpful pointers abound
The game has built-in lessons to help confused or new game creators (like yours truly) understand some of the Nodons. I thoroughly recommend the lessons, even for hardcore gamers, as they walk you through the making of multiple games.
Also, you can connect a USB mouse which really helps speed things up, especially when it comes to adding detail to your game.
You can share your games with other players on Game Builder Garage via the Nintendo Switch online service. Games built within GBG can support up to eight different Joy-Cons, effectively allowing the creation of local multiplayer games up to eight-players.
If you know what you are doing or have a knack for the complexities of game design, then there is so much you can do in GBG from the get-go. But the good news is that even a novice like me can pick things up really quickly.
GBG Review: The takeaway
If you always hated school but loved video games then you will never have enjoyed learning as much as you will in GBG.
It is bursting with the usual Nintendo charm and personality. And as long as you stay patient – and keep your cool – you will be creating games with this large and robust system in no time at all. No coding knowledge is required, but you will be learning powerful concepts such as evaluations and conditional statements – often without actually realising it.
Those with an in-depth knowledge of coding and game design will no doubt be frustrated by the lack of actual code access. But for me, not being able to see lines of code – which I would understand very little from and no would doubt bamboozle my brain – didn’t detract from the overall experience.
There is so much variety and so many possible combinations with the scope to put together some really fantastic and complex games. One look on YouTube will show what some super talented people have already cooked up – including recreating some Nintendo classics such as Zelda’s Ocarina of Time!
A week or so is not nearly long enough to start scratching the surface on GBG. But this is certainly a welcome and innovative addition to the Switch stable.