Garden Gnome Carnage

Don't ask why. Ask why not.

Ludosity Interactive is amazing. First the developer releases the brilliant Mama & Son - Clean House in September, and now just two months later we get an equally colorful and innovative Garden Gnome Carnage, a game that's seemingly so bizarre that the developer didn't even bother trying to describe it in the game's description. The developer goes so far as to proudly quote a Kongregate user on its page for the game: "At first I was wtf. But then I was wtf." While not entirely escaping description, Garden Gnome Carnage feels straight out of Japan with its zaniness and should appeal to fans of Panic! and other video game oddities.

The basic premise is that a garden gnome and others live inside the fanciest mobile home I've ever seen, and soldiers want them out for some reason. Soldiers will run in from the sides of the screen and fly in via helicopter looking to evict the building's tenants; they will climb up the walls Rampage style but can only claim the building after reaching the chimney. That's where the player comes in, controlling the rolling house with the garden gnome tethered to the chimney with elastic string. The gnome can knock away the soldiers and helicopters by swinging into them, and he can remove bricks from the building and throw them like bombs. The player can also call in an airstrike to flatten most of the enemies on the level. That's Garden Gnome Carnage for starters, but it gets weirder.

A friendly cat saunters on screen and can restore bricks to the face of the building but only if it can climb up to the chinmey. Explosions will knock the cat up into the air, and it can be caught to speed its ascent but can also be knocked off by the gnome. A princess holds out extra air strike icons out of the window which can be picked up, and, for reasons for which I'm still unsure, she'll suddenly stop the action to bring about a bonus game in which she has to collect gold while dodging crushing walls and a rising flood. Escape, and she'll pop out the chimney and start firing a bazooka at all enemies for a short while. Occasionally, the actual head of the developer will pop up from the side of the building Dan "Toasty" Forden-style, unexpectedly helping out the gnome in knocking off a threatening soldier. The game just gets more and more bizarre as it carries on, and it has some undocumented but hinted secrets (watch the pause screen for messages which reveal some of them) that will keep players looking out for them.

The audio is fantastic as well with a great soundtrack and excellent sound effects. Lots of different voices can be heard chiming in during the game, from the gnome's "I can see my house from here!" to the death screams of the soldiers. I love the Rocky & Bullwinkle-esque "And now for something completely different" which introduces the mini-games as well as hearing the princess kindly inform that an airstike is available. The graphics are spectacular in their own way, full of color and explosions -- the game has carnage in the title for a reason with soldiers and cats flying over the screen every second. I love the chaos of watching dozens upon dozens of stuff getting blown up and tossed in the air, and having that as a gameplay element gives the game a Treasure sort of vibe. It's a wonderful, quirky title which fills a niche I never knew existed and amazes every second of play. The elastic gameplay can feel a bit obtuse at first, but steady play and practice including mastering the wind controls will show that it's surprisingly more functional than the initial impression of random chaos.

There's a good chance Garden Gnome Carnage may sound familiar, because it's an enhanced port of a three year plus old PC game of the same name. Remar Games developed the original, decidely more Christmas-y game and has brought it and his talents to the Swedish beach that is Ludosity Interactive. Garden Gnome Carnage may be a reissue for Xbox Indies, but it excels on the console, offering improved graphics, control, and a "Somewhat Online Highscore" board which are well worth the low 80 points asking price, even for those with past play experience.

★★★★☆
November 7, 2010
November 3, 2010 | 80 points
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