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  • Writer's pictureJames Stephanie Sterling

Garten Of Banban I to IV - The Mascot Horror Grift (Review)

Garten of Banban I, II, III, and IV

Released:  January 6th 2023 (game 1 of 7), June 20th 2024 (console release)

Developer: Euphoric Brothers

Publisher: Euphoric Brothers, Feardemic

Systems: iOS, Android, PC, PS5 , Switch (reviewed), Xbox X/S

Copies provided by publisher


Garten of Banban allowed me to understand how parents in the 1980s must have felt as their children watched poorly animated post-Reagan cartoons and demanded the associated action figures. Masters of the Universe, however, looks like the Sistine fucking Chapel in comparison to this absolute shit.


Banban, for many people, will have appeared out of nowhere, suddenly dominating toy shop aisles with stuffed facsimiles of the series’ horrendous looking things. Since just last year, seven games have been churned out, each a minimum viable product designed not to be played by its target audience, but watched.


Watched… and wanted. 

Each game is clearly marketed to children, but the obtuse “puzzles” and luck-based sequences have not been designed with kids in mind. No, Garten of Banban is a kids’ game designed to be played by adult YouTubers who’ll get their audiences craving Banban merch. It’s a ruthlessly direct cash grab, one that content creators have been all too happy to facilitate. 


Garten’s creatures are embarrassing in terms of design, crudely sculpted models resembling a young teenager’s first experiments with Blender. I’d be legit surprised if these things even had concept art, given how amateurish and sloppy they look. However, while these creatures are indeed aesthetically garbage, their simplicity makes them easy to replicate - they’re fanart friendly.


A child can draw them, and that’s the point. 

Welcome to the Mascot Horror Grift.

 

Following the success of Five Nights at Freddy’s, Poppy’s Playtime, and a bunch of other lore-soaked toy commercials, bandwagoning parasites are crawling out of the woodwork to exploit the shit out of some kids. Talentless scumbags are producing shovelware in droves, stripmining an already overused horror concept until there’s nothing left. 


Garten of Banban is a comprehensively cynical perpetuator of the Mascot Horror Grift, a blatant attempt at manufactured viral success, aided and abetted by the online content mill to contrive success via the manipulation of YouTubers’ young audiences. Fans may claim the series has moved away from its mascot horror roots... it fucking hasn't, it's just made the horror even more kid-friendly.


It’s fucking pathetic, but I can’t deny it’s worked. For the artist who shuns artistry, mascot horror can rake in a fortune. 

Nothing about these games are good. They’re the lowest common denominator among the lowest hanging fruit. It’s a bargain basement series of first-person “horror” games set in a nursery school that’s also a stereotypical ripoff of Internet horror settings such as SCP or the Backrooms. So far, so trite. 


Each short adventure has you solving utterly inane puzzles and running away from stuff. Monsters do that wearisome “scream in your face while shaking a lot” routine if they catch you. Of course they do. Heaven forbid they do anything imaginative - Garten of Banban is where imagination goes to die. 


Each installment is so brief that by the time this series blessedly concludes, there might be enough material for one real game. In essence, it’s one episodic game broken into sequels, every subsequent chapter picking up where the last load of shit left off, telling a badly written story that’s genuinely not worth recounting. 

You’ll waste your time exploring giant, barely furnished rooms with MS Paint doodles on the walls and a fleeting relationship with the concept of texture. There’s very little music, hardly any ambient noise, and controls are dreadful - the console version in particular forces you to hold the left stick in to run with no toggle setting, because it’s fucking godless. 


Meanwhile, you’re arbitrarily given a drone to solve a lot of puzzles (which almost always involve steering it into huge red buttons placed conspicuously on the walls). Said drone has no pathfinding, only goes in a straight line towards the walls you click on, and has a deceptive hitbox that’ll frequently bonk into stuff. Maneuvering it is at once absurdly simple and pointlessly fiddly. 


The drone, like everything in this farce, is implemented in the most rudimentary fashion possible, working just barely enough to qualify as functional. You can come up with more elegant remote control puzzles in thirty minutes of dicking around in LittleBigPlanet.

Everything takes a long time to do. Repetitive puzzles go on and on, either requiring you to perform half a dozen arbitrary steps, or repeat the same steps half a dozen times. When they’re not vague scenarios that rely on luck or guessing what the developer was thinking, they’re long as fuck and twice as boring. 


They really worked out how to make a tiny game feel like an exhausting slog. 


The whole time you’re in these open, plain, downright barren environments, meeting vaguely defined characters that look like they were blasphemed into being by a chimp with a bucket of plasticine. 

Chase sequences lack any sense of energy as you’re pursued at a sluggish pace by a dumb looking goober that’s only mildly more intelligent than your drone. Monsters usually catch you as a result of RNG, since you can follow an intended route perfectly and still get caught.


I suspect the games’ luck-based elements are intentional if it’s not simply a case of incompetent design, since it ensures a YouTuber will performatively shriek at the monster’s screamy-shaky routine upon inevitable failure. 


Certainly feels symbiotic, at any rate. 

I can’t emphasize enough through words how fucking lazy these games are, and yes I’ll call these videogame developers lazy. The Euphoric Brothers are lazy. In terms of creativity, in terms of effort, in terms of any kind of investment on the part of those who committed Garten of Banban, they are unashamedly cheap and unforgivably fucking lazy


Earlier I used the term minimum viable product and I meant it in the harshest possible way. You can say this game, even with its busted physics and glitchy graphics, works as it should. It runs, and it can be played. That’s where the commitment to making a videogame has ended. The rest is all a vulgar ploy to sell the ugliest dolls your local Smyths has in stock. 

I really don’t have much else to say about the gameplay because there is so little. They tossed a few half-baked derivative puzzles into sterile rooms cobbled together over the course of an afternoon and they called the job done. Only asset flips are lower effort than Garten of Banban, though some of those actually play better. 


A scattering of notes making unsubtle references to biological experiments provides the obligatory “lore” these mascot horrors all need to have. Voice acting is performed by the developers and their mates, and it absolutely fucking shows. Even the title character, Banban, presents his lines as halfhearted mumbles recorded in low quality by a person who didn’t even put on a voice, let alone attempt to act. 


They couldn’t be fucking bothered to make their heavily marketed creatures sound like more than a bored man obviously reciting his script through a cheap headset. When you won’t make your horror mascots sound like part of a mascot horror, you surely can’t give the slightest shit about making a good game. 

So much of Banban feels like it should’ve been made by a kid in a MediaMolecule game. If it had been uploaded to Dreams, people would have laughed their heads off at it. Hell, I thought this series’ very existence was an elaborate joke when I first saw it, but reality has a cruel way of being the punchline at times. 


Since we’re reviewing the first four installments in one review, I’ve decided to assign four separate scores with a brief summary of each individual travesty. 

Garten of Banban


Garten of Banban features maybe five minutes of content with some padding that fails to hide how much nothing there is. It introduces the series’ mainstays - an inept remote controlled drone, insipid puzzles, and a badly rendered bird that screams in your face. 


Its one saving grace is that it’s free. 


Ugly and threadbare, both mechanically and aesthetically, Garten of Banban has spread its lumpy legs and given birth to one of the most cynically manufactured franchises of all time. 


1.5/10

Garten of Banban II


Introducing an actual story this time, albeit a poorly written one that relies on flimsy “lore” bullshit, Garten of Banban II is a slightly longer, but no less miserable, affair. The featured “voice acting” is flatter than the game’s textures, cementing just how little investment has been put in. 


Puzzles are more tedious, scares are more pitiful, and for all its expanded gameplay, this sequel manages to be no better than the last. 


1.5/10

Garten of Banban III


Clocking in at around an hour, Garten of Banban III is the longest so far, but that’s not a good thing. Much of the extended runtime has been achieved with even longer and more repetitive puzzles, trial-and-error nonsense, and periods of time spent doing nothing.


There is a single puzzle toward the end that actually approaches decent, as you try to escape a room while regularly putting things back the way they were before a monster comes to check. Unfortunately, they couldn’t resist making it a slow-paced and boring affair with RNG elements anyway. Whatever fluffs up the runtime, I guess. 


They say familiarity breeds contempt, and the more time I spend in this series’ dismal world, the more relatable a statement that becomes.


1/10

Garten of Banban IV


While it immediately starts with a cheap ambush that will likely kill you since you don’t know to start running as soon as you can, Garten of Banban IV represents something of a jump in quality. It’s still fucking abysmal, but there’s voice acting that actually attempts to act, and some environments with basic textures and detailing. Shame these details constantly glitch out.


A couple of NPCs join you this time. Their main goal seems to be following so closely behind that they almost always block your path when you need to turn around. Stupid fucking videogame. 


With an actual hint of production value, Garten of Banban IV is better, but it’s nowhere near acceptable. The larger environments lead to obscene amounts of backtracking, while the story and scares are as sad as ever. It is every bit the ugly, exploitative commercial its predecessors were.


2.5/10

There’s something off about this entire series. From its barely known perpetrators to its instant worldwide success, it reeks of premeditation. I find it hard to believe the virulent spread of this trash was particularly organic. 


Having played the first four Banban games, I am in no hurry whatsoever to experience the rest. They’re inept, obnoxious, and above all, lazy. Lazy lazy lazy shit.


LAZY

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