It only sold a few thousand copies in Japan, but it’s one of the most terrifying and lesser-known video games in history.

Even if you love horror video games, chances are you’ve never heard of ‘Garage: Bad Dreams Adventure’, a Japanese horror video game for PC and Mac released in 1999 that hit stores across its country without pain or glory. However, several reissues and a brand new landing on Steam They show that the terrifying power of his twisted images has not completely dissipated.

‘Garage’ is a nightmare that could be described as biomechanical (the term that coined HR Giger to reference the monstrosities of his ‘Necronomicon’ books that later found their way into the designs of ‘Alien’, whose dirty, phallic, greasy aesthetic has a lot to do with that game). The game’s design was led by Japanese surrealist Tomomi Yuki Sakuba, and it was created by a handful of people, including programmers and graphic designers Akiya Hayashi, Gengo Ito, and Hiroki Watanabe.

Sakuba is a completely self-taught author: he learned to program on the free “Hypercard” after being fascinated by the largely unknown black-and-white classic for the Mac “Cosmic Osmo” in 1990. Among the projects he experimented with, he had a personal version of ‘The Hobbit’, but quickly got into a full project. The result is atypical, disturbing and deserves to be recovered: it was released on PC and Mac in 1999, it was recovered for Android and iOS in 2021, and as they say, a few weeks ago it was relaunched on Steam in their original formats.

garage of nightmares

‘Garage: Bad Dream Adventure’ begins by confronting the player with himself: in a dark room, when he finds a switch, he sees his reflection in a mirror. It’s Yan, a hideous creature, half deformed flesh, half metallic body. A series of notes tell him that he must try to get out of this nightmare and find his sneakers.

Thus, without memories, he begins to explore an arid environment, some kind of inhuman mansion full of pipes, wooden planks, motors, cranks, corridors and walkways. You will need to improve your body to be able to access the different levels of the stage (since it is essentially a vehicle rolled up with pieces of meat) and monitor your “sense of self”, that is to say your awareness. If Yen loses this sense of identity, more than enough will start to crumble.

The storyline to explore is what makes the game a horror title, though it lacks any kind of violence beyond existential violence. But the scenario full of disturbing details and which suggest strange experiments with artificial life, or the design of the characters, of the creatures between the amphibious and the robotic which turn the graphic limitations of the time in favor of the game, are of sheer horror. All seasoned with an eerie soundtrack that rings out in agonizing endless loops.

And that’s just the surface. The game continually reveals that it is made by a group of beginners, which makes it particularly confusing and awkward in mechanics, halfway between the most abrupt gameplay graphic adventures and impossible puzzles, ‘Myst’ style, and a collage of disturbing concepts. In “Garage”, there are clones, lots of empty rooms that lead nowhere, unjust and unpredictable deaths and a cryptic, almost incomprehensible story behind the dilapidated and semi-ruined aspect of the garage-laboratory where the action.

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ultimate cult

The game went on sale exclusively in Japan at 3,000 copies. The reason for its extremely low circulation is that the game’s publisher, Toshiba-EMI, left the CD game business shortly after the first release. Even in Japanese terms, the original game is extremely rare and was floundering on Japanese auction sites like Suruga-ya for nearly $3,000.

It was 4chan’s retro gaming channel, /virtual reality/, the one who organized a collection to buy and keep it. Some of these historical discussions and redigitalization work have also been recorded in the HG101 forums. 4chan users discovered that this copy was actually a “private version” that Sakuba had put up for sale at the beginning of this century via its website. Sakuba didn’t quite agree to republish it, and furthermore he didn’t own the rights to it.

Finally, under this “private version” label, the game began to go through alternative channels again, until in 2014, the people of HG101 found it on Yahoo Auctions Japan and bought it for 600 euros. The preservation process was completed and culminated with the mobile versions which included an overhaul of game mechanics, a good number of additional levels and finally an English translation, which is what was used in the new version of desk. A real nightmare.

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