Who here hasn’t been stuck in a rut? Or trapped in a joyless existence where one only finds solace in video games? What if the games we played were directly related to our lives?! That’s the premise behind Legendary Gary; a game that takes a very original approach when exploring and dealing with this situation.
Slice of Life
Legendary Gary was developed by Evan Rogers, a former programmer for Naughty Dog who went indie to work on his own projects. He’s the sole developer and the music is the only thing that isn’t his (more on the music later, because it’s amazing). In Legendary Gary we play as the titular Gary. He’s a 30-something guy, who lives in his mom’s basement, spends all his time playing video games while neglecting everything from his own mother to his job. The game shows you enough so that you see what might have got him to that situation, but lets you piece it together.
When Legendary Gary starts Gary decides that things have to change. And he finds himself in a situation where he’s actually forced to show some degree of maturity, which makes things interesting. But things get weirder when he realizes that the game he’s currently playing, a fantasy RPG called “Legend of the Spear”, has some parallels to his life.
At first it starts with simple things, like someone saying a line he heard in the game-within-a-game. But as the actual game progresses we see more parallels between Gary’s situation and that of Winkali, the character he plays in “Legend of the Spear.”
The game alternates segments in which we play as Gary in his regular, boring life. We have to help him navigate through his relationships with his friends, girlfriend and mother while trying to make him a better person.
During these segments there’s an important stat to consider. In fact it’s the only stat in the entire game. Gary’s motivation. As the game goes on Gary wins and loses motivation, depending on the choices he makes and the consequences. And having enough motivation can unlock additional choices for him.
We gain motivation either through his frustration, because he eats a cookie or because he sleeps well. But he might also lose it because he ends up doing some things that he doesn’t like at all.
These real life segments also have an interesting mechanic, gardening. Plenty of games have gardening in them but not like Legendary Gary. The skills that the characters in “Legend of the Spear” have are linked to Gary’s garden. Gary will get seeds (and sometimes plants will grown on their own as well) so he has to water them and take care of them, if he keeps the plants happy then the characters will have more skills to choose from.
The other half of Legendary Gary we spend in “Legend of the Spear”, the mysterious game that Gary plays. In it he plays as Winkali, a member of the Royal Guard who is looking for the King while trying to save the princess.
There’s no levelling up in this RPG (unless the gardening is considered) so the RPG segments are divided into exploration segments and fights, and the fights also showcase Legendary Gary‘s originality, particularly because of the combat system.
Legendary Gary has a turn-based combat system, but with the addition that when a turn finishes all the characters act at the same time. So there’s some planning involved to it, a character could attack you but you could parry and be in a position to counter-attack, and find yourself at the mercy of another enemy. At first only Winkali is in our party, but as we progress we’ll get two more characters, a healer and a tank.
The combat system breathes originality to the game, and it’s fun to tinker with. Unfortunately, it presents no challenge in the end. It has a rewind option, which we can use if we have made a wrong move during a turn. But the thing is that nothing stops you from rewinding to the very start of the combat to try again. In a way, that removes any the challenge and can make things easier.
The game looks stunning. It has an interesting art style that resembles underground comics from the 80s. Both in the real life parts and the fantasy ones. Although the fantasy parts havee a more surreal twist to it.
But the coolest thing about this game is xXSickXx’s soundtrack. Having a synthpop artist make a soundtrack for a fantasy/slice of life RPG hybrid might be a bit of a strange decision. But it totally works, Legendary Gary‘s soundtrack is awesome. It’s not available on Steam but you can get the album where the songs are from the artist’s Bandcamp page. And it’s worth it.
While the game is original, and it has a solid length (among five hours, give or take) in the end it feels like too little. It feels like there was so much that could’ve happened both in the real life and the game-within-a-game segments, and the ending felt a bit abrupt. Especially because in the end we don’t get any explanations about why Gary got the game or why all this started happening. But in this case it’s all about the journey, rather than the destination.
- Engaging story
- Amazing soundtrack
- Original combat system
- Wonky pathfinding at some parts of the game
- The combat system could’ve been more challenging.
- The ending feels a bit abrupt.
Legendary Gary is certainly one of the most original games out there at this moment. It has enough elements in it to make it feel relatable and interesting at the same time as it deals with adulthood, relationships and grief, among other things. Truly worth your time, so don’t be afraid to give it a go.