Remember when you were a kid and spent all your time on the playground coming up with games that you changed the rules to whenever they would suit your favor? That’s how game creation games make me feel. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing! It’s fun to be in control of something and have creative liberty to give it any goal and style you want. Nintendo’s Game Builder Garage allows you to do just that, giving you the tools and lessons necessary to make the game of your dreams a reality. Well, mostly.
While Nintendo has *ahem* played with the concept of building your own game with the Super Mario Maker series, here the focus is more centered around the down and dirty with the finer details of visual programming as you create games of all kinds using a number of pieces called Nodons. Each Nodon does a specific job, whether it’s representing a character or an item, being an input that determines how the sticks and buttons move a character, or providing any number of special effects, such as background music, hand drawn graphics, or text.
They also affect every aspect of the game you create, so it’s important to understand how each one works and what they do in order to program things properly.
The game has two modes: interactive lesson and free programming. The interactive lessons are incredibly fun and thorough, and while I found it tedious at first (there was plenty of “ugh, I get it! The button needs to connect to the person to jump!”) I actually came to really appreciate them. The lessons take you through the steps of building a multitude of different games, from tag to an alien shooter to racing, while demonstrating how each Nodon works. In between each lesson, there are a few checkpoints that test your knowledge.
These were really helpful. I definitely preferred this method of learning the ins and outs of the process over that of RPG Maker MV, where it was a wall of text and then just being thrown in.
Free programming, of course, gives you free rein to create just about anything you want. I highly recommend going through the interactive lessons first, though. There’s a lot to learn, and it helps to have it all under your belt before braving it alone. Plus, it’s fun to learn why you have to use the Nodons the way you do; the lessons do a great job of explaining inputs and outputs, AND and NOT conditions, constants, and other simple programming concepts.
The game runs incredibly well, which is no surprise since it’s made for the Switch specifically. The controls do get a little annoying at times since you have to constantly switch between touchscreen and joy-con, but you get used to it pretty quickly. The designs of the Nodons are adorable and easily differentiated from each other. That becomes incredibly important when you start making more complicated games and your screen is absolutely littered with them.
I really enjoyed the simple designs of all of the objects used to make the games. You could change their color and appearance a bit, but it was never too crazy. It was nice to not feel overwhelmed by all of the options, but feel comfortable testing them all out and seeing what worked.
Game Builder Garage is an easygoing, funny, and sneakily educational game creation software that’s a perfect starting point for budding game developers. Its interactive tutorials aren’t boring – although tedious at first – they’re fun and allow you to create multiple types of games, including sidescrollers, racing, and simple tag. It sets you up perfectly to create on your own by helping you understand the why and how of using the Nodons. If you’re looking to be in control of your games from start to finish (or just looking to start building some programming skills), roll up your sleeves and get to work in this garage.