Game Builder Garage review: a rigid, powerful and frustrating lesson

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Play builder garage is a powerful game creation tool. Its visual programming language makes understanding its complex systems relatively easy for adults and children – those with no programming experience and those with tons of it.

Except the greatest assets of Play builder garage are also its greatest weaknesses. It’s a powerful tool that lets you create awesome things, but it makes them complex and hard to figure out. His tutorials are comprehensive, but they are so vast that they left me itchy to explore on my own instead.

Play builder garage arouses a mixture of frustration and childish excitement. As an adult, my frustration with long, rigid tutorials has often got the better of me. But after watching my young nephews play for several hours, I began to see the value of a more focused experience.

Dominant Nintendo Tutorials: The Game

Bob is the point of the tutorial, and he is my enemy
Image: Nintendo

Nintendo loves tutorial. Games like Paper Mario: the king of origami Carefully hold your hand through rigid instructions. Even the open world The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild requires players to complete tutorials lasting several hours on the Grand Plateau. Anyone who has ever returned to other Zelda games like Twilight Princess and Skyward sword felt the white-hot Switch / Wii remote raging during a lengthy Nintendo tutorial.

You might be more patient than I am, but after going through thousands of video game tutorials in my life, my desire to learn as you go has never been higher. Maybe that’s why older people seem so stubborn?

Unfortunately for people like me Play builder garage is a great tutorial. Bob, the blue point that guides you through Play builder garage, takes you step by step through the creation of games. To learn the ropes of Play builder garage, Bob wants you to build seven different games according to his careful guidelines: local multiplayer game, motion sensitive ball rolling game, side scrolling shooter, puzzle game, racing game, 2D platform game and a 3D platform game.

The Tag Showdown Tutorial Menu in Game Builder Garage

You add to your creation at each of these stages
Image: Nintendo

Bob breaks these tutorial lessons into several parts, and each game can take anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour to build. You start with something simple, then turn it into something complex, with controllable characters, enemies, score counters, and built-in resets that restart the game once you’ve won.

These tutorials are great for getting the information you need into your brain, but the rigidity stifles any spark of creativity. Bob’s tutorials require you to perform specific movements in a specific order: change a property on that object, go see what he’s done in the game, go back to programming mode and try a different one; repeat.

During a preview session with Nintendo at the end of last month, a representative of the Play builder garage The team told ServerPlay that they want players to start thinking like a developer. Play builder garage succeeds there, but because Emperor Bob won’t let me stray from his narrow path, discovery and creativity are off the table while I learn. I will learn how to destroy objects, but if I want to explore the different settings around destroying objects, I will have to write it down and go into Free Programming mode later.

I’d love to take a break and browse a menu during my tutorials, but Bob is focused – like a teacher five minutes before the bell rings, determined to do his homework on a Friday. After a handful of tutorials, I usually find myself setting my Switch for something else, although I’m still eager to learn more and filled with questions that I wish I could have answered at my own pace.

And this feeling inevitably leads me to the free programming mode.

Learn how much I don’t know

The NOT Nodon in Game Builder Garage

Each Nodon has its own personality in Game Builder Garage
Image: Nintendo

My favorite part of Play builder garage dive into free programming to build things myself. I’m usually not someone who builds a lot in games like Mario Maker, Dreams, Where Little big planet, but the lessons of Play builder garage grab my attention in such a way that I feel a deep urge to try things for myself.

After applying some of the lessons I’ve learned, I dive into the menus and start removing items. Learning how to move a three-dimensional character before I got to this lesson with Bob made me feel like a genius. Finding out how to attach a cannon to a character and shoot orbs made me smile from ear to ear.

I have things I want to try. Can I create a Metroid game? What about something like a top-down action game with loot, like Diablo? So far all of my ideas have been derived, but learning how systems like this work makes me want to replicate things that I love.

Except that it doesn’t take me long to tweak free programming to realize how little I know. So I come back to Bob’s tutorials, eager to learn more, even knowing that I’ll be back in free programming soon to tinker with again – either out of hate for Bob or because I have a new idea that I am doing. want to try.

Nephew Builder Garage

The Tag Showdown in-game tutorial in Game Builder Garage

Bob makes you start from scratch and then build something like that
Image: Nintendo

I felt a sense of frustration around Play builder garage, even in the midst of this pure joy of discovery. So I decided to try something a little different: I went on an excursion. Instead of playing Play builder garage in the comfort of my living room, I drove to my sister’s house to spend time with her two 11 year old twin sons.

I took my Switch out of my backpack, put it in their Switch dock, and brought them back to Bob’s first tutorial mission. I sat on the couch and watched them play tutorial after tutorial, their eyes inches away from the TV, consuming everything.

After learning a bit, they got into free programming on their own. One of them created “Mini-world”, a small game in which you can jump on huge Joy-Cons or on a disturbingly large tuna. After playing around for a bit, they started asking questions about other options or things they hadn’t learned yet. Then, as I had done, they returned to meet Bob.

Nodons encouraging player in Game Builder Garage

Game Builder Garage can get complex quickly, with a lot of moving parts
Image: Nintendo

They had told me when I got there that they wanted to make games when they were older, so naturally I was curious to see their response after five hours of making games. They told me to build games in Play builder garage is complex but “so much fun” and “a bit like school”. They, like me, wished they could experiment a bit more during the tutorials, but they also never put the Switch down to do anything else after a long session with Bob. When I left, they weren’t just eager to keep playing a new game – they wanted to keep learning and completing tutorials they hadn’t yet learned.

My visit gave me a different perspective on Play builder garage. As an adult, I hate Bob and his encyclopedic knowledge. I want him to give it to me and leave me alone forever. But for a child, Bob is a useful teacher. Maybe he’s strict with his lesson plan, but the little dot certainly pays off.

One thing the boys and I had in common was the desire to try things for ourselves. Not only to test what we had learned, but to push the boundaries of what might be possible by trying new things. But as I grumpily returned to Bob for a bit of new acquaintance, the boys returned to class filled with hope and excitement for what was to follow.

The Touch Nodon in Game Builder Garage

Making games is intimidating, even for the Nodons who help you build them
Image: Nintendo

Perhaps there is a lesson here about the virtue of patience and the things we lose as we grow older. But that doesn’t particularly interest me at the moment. Instead, I’m more focused on my experience with twins, and the reminder that what’s too rigid for me is almost necessary for the game’s target audience. As a tool for teaching children, Play builder garage did an exceptional job of not just getting their attention but teaching them how the games work.

Children are like sponges, eager to learn and soak up new knowledge to apply in decades to come. If you are an adult curious about how games work, Play builder garage is a fun and informative experience most of the time – but it’s an experience you might prefer to have in short bursts, lest slow lessons force you to smash your Switch in half.

Play builder garage will be released on June 11 for Nintendo Switch. The game has been tested using a Switch download code provided by Nintendo. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find more information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.


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