Time management game offers a gritty atmosphere, but bland gameplay
The era of the Great Depression wasn’t a happy time in America’s history, so it’s a somewhat courageous setting for a time management game given that the genre’s tendency towards colorful and lighthearted stories. Garage Inc, a new release by developer TransGaming, puts the player into the shoes of Angelo Martin, an average joe who decides to open an auto shop during these tough times. Unfortunately, while the game’s presentation is top-notch, the gameplay lacks enough real challenge to keep the player interested.
Garage Inc features a story mode and nightshift; the latter mode lets the player to replay mini-missions that take place in between regular levels in the story mode.
It’s Chicago in 1928, the time of Al Capone. Angelo Martin is just an ordinary guy who dreams of his own auto shop to support his wife and daughter. His cousin Sal agrees to lend him the money to do so, but Angelo has no way of knowing the depths of misfortune that this “family loan” will bring upon him. When a mob called “The Outfit” suddenly appears at his garage he begins to sense that he is in some kind of trouble.
The basic gameplay of Garage Inc will be familiar to fans of the Fix-it-up series. Different vehicles arrive at your garage on a regular basis and need various repairs. The tasks you have to perform on vehicles are indicated by different colored symbols above them, such as diagnosis, engine, electricity or body repairs. Depending on the type of car, you earn a varying amount of money to meet the daily profit goal. While Angelo can perform any task, he is not the quickest man in town, and interestingly enough you are able to hire workers for each different category of repairs each day. The color of the overalls of any worker indicates which task he is able to perform, and even workers of the same category differ in ability and salary.
At the end of each day you will receive a balance sheet, because there are a lot of items to be deducted from your initial revenues, such as salaries, debt, debt interest, repair parts, or, if applicable, overtime payments. Your overall profit does not account for much, since there are no real upgrades for the player to purchase. New features, customers, or additional bays for vehicles are introduced in between levels automatically, and even that only happens rarely.
There are also entertaining mini-jobs you have to do for the mob every few levels, in which you just have to follow certain movements and clicks with the cursor. Despite their simplicity, these mini-games are a welcome distraction from the general gameplay and blend in with the theme very nicely.
The presentation of Garage Inc and the general atmosphere are absolutely flawless. The graphics of the cut-scenes are very gritty and fit the depicted era perfectly, and moreover they advance the plot in a very natural way. The same goes for sound, descriptions, and the look of the regular levels. This is definitely a plus, especially because this setting is very fresh and unique – at least to the casual market.
Unfortunately our concerns with Garage Inc overshadow the wonderful presentation. For one thing, the controls are the opposite of perfect. It’s quite complicated to select the correct worker and to send workers to different bays, and this gets annoying pretty quickly. Also, gameplay is highly repetitive. Even though there are different categories of repair tasks, those tasks do not really alter gameplay, the same goes for customer and vehicle types. Furthermore Garage Inc sorely lacks a motivating upgrade system, new workers and bays are introduced automatically, and that is all there is with regards to changes throughout the game.
In the end Garage Inc is a real disappointment, all the more because the whole presentation is so flawless and the setting would have made for a very interesting game. As it is, the title is not much more than a very light and boring version of Fix-it-up. The game lacks most aspects that really define outstanding time management titles, such as an interesting upgrade system, an increasing grade of difficulty, or significant variations of gameplay. Of course it is still worth a try, particularly if you are intrigued by the setting, but do not expect a very complex and challenging gaming experience.