I was sipping my coffee, as I do first thing in the morning, when a mysterious chest appeared on my doorstep. Inside its solid gold crust lay a satin interior, and nestled on top was a golden ticket. Reaching in, I picked it up – It was from my editor. It read, “Legendary Gary – Get it done by the 19th!” followed by a secret code.
I couldn’t believe my luck, I’d wanted to review the game since I first seen it. The artwork felt like it came from a Heavy Metal magazine, the music was somehow reminiscent of the Talking Heads, and the gameplay looked like a cross between adventure and RPG. I was elated. Looking down at the elaborate packaging that my prize arrived in, I realized one thing was for certain…
I need to ask for a raise.
Coming from Evan Rogers, a man who worked on both What Remains of Edith Finch and The Last of Us, Legendary Gary is a solo project built with the care and attention of a man driven. Its satirical examination of the basement gamer is redolent of Richard Corben’s Den saga, a story from the aforementioned 80’s pulp comic.
Gary is an unimportant manchild, living in his mother’s basement. His life consists of little until he discovers a game called Legend of the Spear. Within, he finds this interesting new world strikingly similar to the one in which he already dwells. Conversations and events take place in game, only to echo outside of the screen and into Gary’s life.
Played mostly as a point-and-click adventure, you discover the pathetic existence that Gary leads, but as told with civility. You can sympathize with his plight, even if you don’t directly identify with it. You see someone with no outlet, and can understand how fantasy would become one.
The characters that surround Gary are archetypal, but interestingly written. The best of which is Dave, who is presumably Gary’s best friend. Their relationship with one another really adds the comedy that a game about loss and loneliness needs for levity. It’s raunchy and crass, but that’s the kind of opposite that such an introvert would attract.
The RPG elements of Legendary Gary come mostly from Gary’s excursions into Legend of the Spear. Inside it you find the atypical fantasy role-playing game, where your character goes from zero to hero: You collect party members, fight monsters, find the princess, and save the world.
The magic and skills in Legend of the Spear come from plants, an element that extends into Gary’s real life. Living with his mother, Gary is expected to tend the garden, and doing so grants his in-game characters abilities. Talking to everyone, both inside and outside the game, is the only way to attain them.
In the real world, Gary’s life has a Motivation RPG element that he needs to build on in order to give certain answers. Being selfish, or otherwise ignoring character-building actions of the game will decrease this number. With insufficient Motivation, Gary cannot give an answer that would solve a problem. It’s an allegory for life, but it’s part of what gives Legendary Gary it’s charm.
Legend of the Spear contains a deceptively deep combat system that will take a few turns to understand, do not glaze over the tutorial. Battle is a simultaneous, turn-based affair with a peek button that shows enemy movement. You need to anticipate moves and strategize on how best to exploit them. Abilities and buffs have turn lengths to consider, and combat gets progressively more difficult. There is a rewind button but your base understanding is important, otherwise expect to be frustrated.
Another thing to note are names, as in don’t forget them. If you are someone who does so with wild abandon, I suggest you write them down as there is a part of the game that requires you to recall them. I am that kind of someone, and had I not been taking screenshots, I would have been stumped.
There are many things I liked and identified with, contained in Gary’s story. The all too real nature of returning to a job you hate, the crushing reality of relationships, and the true nature of management (wait, you’ll get that one later). You can choose to allow Gary to wallow in non-existence, or force him to grow and be rewarded for it. My only gripe is with the ending, it’s… light, shall we say.
The introspection, and satirical nature of the entire product makes one pause for thought. You see how context is everything when it comes to decisions and events in life. Legendary Gary succeeds in endearing itself to you through truth and honesty. The story is less fantasy and more didactic in nature, you walk away feeling as if you have learned something.
Created by someone who worked on the Last of Us, I shouldn’t be surprised, yet the small and indie nature is misleading. The plot elements are grander than one would expect from a one-person team. Having two worlds allows giving one the aloofness of a tragicomedy, while granting the other some fictional muscle, in a well rounded narrative.
If you have a naturally inquisitive mind, and are willing to learn its combat system, then Legendary Gary is a must play.
EDIT: After a small conversation with Evan, I completely missed a hint system that will help with remembering the names. When you are controlling Gary or Winkali (his Legend of the Spear character), you can move the cursor to the bottom right of the screen to hear Gary’s thoughts.
- Fantastic artistic aesthetic
- Interesting music
- Well-written characters and story
- Surprisingly deep combat system
- Remembering names is important
- Ending is a bit light
- Combat system can be frustrating to casuals
- Not enough Dave