Let me be honest- I’m no fan of felines; I’ve preferred the companionship of canines for my entire life. I also find the antics of the lethargic cat, moronic dog, and even stupider, co-dependent owner depicted in Garfield nearly unbearable. With that admission, one might think I’d be incapable of giving a fair review to Garfield Gets Real, the latest video game to feature the sluggish star of comics and film. On the contrary, I would reply that 2007’s Garfield’s Nightmare, is one of the better third party platformers on the DS system. Despite my animosity for the main character, I found the game to be an enjoyable diversion, which recalled the hop-and-bop bliss found in New Super Mario Bros.
The bilingual paragraph on the back of Garfield Gets Real’s box filled me with a wave of optimism. The game advertised the ability to put the player “in the director’s seat”, and allowed participants to make a movie with Garfield’s “special moves, dances, tricks, and props.” I immediately thought the game was an extension of Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck, which let users interact with Daffy Duck. Although the title was more of an interactive- toy than a goal oriented game, it was a welcome reprieve from most licensed titles.
With aspirations of making a cinematic short exposing the insipidity of Garfield and friends, I began playing the title. The first stage presented the complacent cat trapped within his own bedroom. Evidently, years of inactivity have introduced a Darwinist dilemma- Garfield is unable to reach the window to escape. Therefore the player must collect enough books to create an unseen stepladder for the feline. To accomplish this feat, all the player has to do is move Garfield left and right to intercept the tomes that are tumbling toward the screen. Being confined to a single axis recalled the truncated depth of the antiquated Game N’ Watch handhelds. Collecting sporadic coins or diving for books offered little distraction from the banality of the level.
The game’s second stage, set in the confines of the kitchen, offered little variation. Here, Jon was inexplicably throwing every item within reach over his shoulder. Garfield was required to grab the food items, while avoiding the plates. As with the other levels, two microgames interrupted the monotony- an uninteresting dance diversion, and a chance to pose for a DVD cover.
Whereas the first two stages could likely be enjoyed by younger gamers, the third level was infuriatingly difficult. Here, the famous feline was expected to cross a playground, littered with swings and hanging chains. Garfield’s sluggish pace made this a near impossibility, as a swipe of a passing swing would send the cat hurling into the horizon. Like most side-scrollers, pressing left or right (and an equivalent swipe on the touch screen) would send Garfield on a leisurely jaunt in the chosen direction. However, players are required to press down to stop the cat, resulting in an unintuitive control scheme.
Despite the title’s lackluster mechanics, Garfield Gets Real has a decent engine. Interiors and objects are well-detailed; playground swings produce a satisfying 3D effect as the move near and away the game’s camera. Although the game’s star is decently rendered, the orange tabby controls like a 25 pound behemoth due to a lack of animation frames. Garfield should be able to simultaneously leap for a coin and move laterally, despite his endomorphic body type.
Garfield Gets Real is a game without an audience. Youngsters might find some amusement in the game’s introductory stages, before finding game-quitting frustration later. Adults will probably have little interest in the main character, and disinterested in the simplistic game mechanics. Garfield fans looks for a respectable rendition of famous feline would be better served looking for a copy of Garfield’s Nightmare.