Day 103: Garden Gnome Carnage

Posted: 2011/02/20 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #103, and today’s game is “Garden Gnome Carnage”.

Garden Gnome Carnage is so oddball, that even the developer doesn’t try to describe it, saying simply: “Don’t ask why. Ask why not.”

Yet, the game can be described, though it takes a bit of work. Remember the game Rampage, where you would play a monster trying to destroy the buildings of a town virtually brick by brick? This is something like Rampage in reverse: rather than being gigantic you’re tiny, and rather than trying to destroy the buildings you’re trying to save one, but it’s all done with a level of wackiness that would make even Monty Python blush. Heck, the game even segues into bizarre mini games by suddenly saying “And now for something completely different,” a phrase Monty Python’s Flying Circus made famous.

The controls and animation of Garden Gnome Carnage (sometimes abbreviated to GGC) are very smooth, though the controls do take some getting used to and a bit of practice is recommended. The game has you swinging your gnome from the roof, knocking of soldiers and attacking helicopters that are trying to evict you and your fellow tenants from the building. The titular gnome is held onto the roof with a elastic bungie cord, giving him the ability to swing and knock of the soldiers trying to climb up the side of the building, but also to do big arcs that carry him above the building to attack helicopters and the soldiers they’re landing on the roof. Your goal is to keep the soldiers away from the chimney, and you can grab bricks from your home and use them as a weapon. A cat periodically attempts to scurry up the building, and if you can manage to not knock it off (while still successfully knocking off the soldiers also trying to climb up) then the cat will replace lost bricks. You also have a certain degree of control over the wind, to help get you just the right level of “english” on your swing.

You can call in airstrikes that flatten all opposition on screen, but there are more soldiers waiting to rush into the area to replace their fallen comrades. Periodically a princess (tiara and all) will lean out a window and offer you more airstrikes, if you can get the right swing on your gnome to meet her before she goes inside.

But then there are the mini games and secrets. The first mini game I encountered was the princess trying to climb to the chimney through the inside of the building, dodging crushing walls that are reminiscent of a trash compacter, and rising flood. Should she make it to the roof, she’ll start firing a bazooka at enemy soldiers for a short time. Weirder still, every once in a while the digitised head of the game’s developer will pop out from the side of the building and knock off a threatening soldier. Believer it or not, it all gets weirder from there.

The game is loaded with secrets, several of which are hinted at within the game but that I have not been able to find yet.

The animation is smooth and the colours and explosions over the top in a crayola way that works well. This game deserves its 80 Microsoft Points as much for someone daring to make it as anything else, but with persistence the controls become second-nature and before you know it you’ll progress far enough into the game that there will soldiers, cats, helicopters, cats, explosions, airstrikes, disembodied heads, and more flying around the screen in a nearly dizzying way.

For a second opinion, check out Kobun’s review of Garden Gnome Carnage.

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