One allium's quest for cyber love.

The Nintendo eShop entry for Garlic bills the game as “A platformer spoofing your favorite genre classics.” Truth be told, I’m not sure I have any genre favorite classics; I’m not an NES-era platformer kind of guy. But I enjoyed Garlic nonetheless. Care to find out why?

Garlic tells the story of Garlic, a boy with the head of an onion. It’s not discussed whether his parents were being ironic or just had no idea of the shape of things to come. All we know about Garlic is that he wants to climb the Sacred Tower to reach the Cyber Goddess, as she will grant his wish if he’s successful. Will Garlic wish for a new head? A new name? There’s an awful lot to overcome before you’ll find out.

A quick look at the graphics may submerge you under a wave of nostalgia. I didn’t play many platformers back in the day, as mentioned, but I certainly know of them and can appreciate the visual vibe Garlic achieves. Simple designs. Bold colors on black backgrounds. Easily identifiable enemies to avoid and platforms to reach. One look at this game and you know what to do.

How to do it, however, isn’t so obvious. Garlic has no weapons, just the ability to dash and jump in different ways. Most of your combos are explained with signs, not words, and they eventually become more cryptic than I’d like.

I’m sorry, what? I completed the game and I have no idea whether I actually did whatever that image was suggesting I do. Those who excel at rapid-action platformers like this may be able to master the dash combos. Not me. I pushed my way through relying only on checkpoints and dumb luck.

The checkpoints are key. But to understand them you must first understand how Garlic works. Unlike most platformers that move left to right, Garlic also moves up. This is a tower, after all. In these segments, moving off the right-hand side of the screen warps you to the left, and vice versa, a mechanic that’s often required to solve the puzzles that allow you to progress.

Of course, there are many enemies and traps in the way, not to mention the pinpoint platforming required. Sometimes you’ll lose a life if you fall, sometimes you’ll just have to work your way back up. But if you do die, be it by falling or enemy attack, you won’t have to go back far. The game is difficult, but you’ll always restart pretty close to where you died. This helps you keep up your momentum and retry the trickier portions because you’re right there.

There are 12 zones to work through, each with several levels. Of course, the endings arrive with boss battles. These are hard; I never defeated one on my first attempt…or fifth. Seventh? Maybe tenth. But with repetition comes recognition, and I was always able to eventually figure out just enough to squeeze past.

Then came the animated segments where Garlic would reach the Cyber Goddess, only to be faced with a mini-game before she moved on. Most of these are cute ways for Garlic to express his growing fondness of the Cyber Goddess.

But some were a bit creepy…as in Garlic’s a bit of a creep himself.

One segment, for example, finds him observing from a closed locker as the Cyber Goddess undresses. She senses something’s amiss, and you then have to help Garlic escape detection as she opens the locker doors to find him. If that doesn’t move you, there are even some random arcade cabinets thrown in for you to play. Why? Well, because that’s life. I certainly played my share of games while pursuing my wife…albeit without ever leering from a locker.

Other than that, and the fact that the controls were a bit too floaty for my tastes, Garlic comes together quite well. The variations in the color schemes and enemies keep the game fresh throughout, and they increase the reward of progression. A game this hard would normally put me off pretty quickly, but even the most difficult segments always felt that they were just one successful jump or combo attack away from completion. And usually they were.

Garlic is a hard game, but it’s fun. It’s not a long game, but it packs in a lot of variation and surprises. I’m glad I stuck with it. I’m not about to attempt the speed run any time soon, but I imagine many platform fans will be up for the challenge. Good luck.