Garfield originated as a classic comic strip, which later developed into an animated TV show, as well as several movies and of course, video games. On top of this, Garfield has been a staple of other media in popular culture since the comic debut in 1978. My first introduction to the world of Garfield, and the comedy and entertainment provided herein, was undoubtedly the TV show throughout my childhood. This has since led me to read the syndicated comic strip in my newspaper on a daily basis, up to and including today's offering. Jim Davis, the creator, is a genius.
Unfortunately, that is where my interest in this classic begins and ends; although I have never played any of the other games based on this comic, after this one I probably won't bother. I'll admit that at first I was a little excited to play this game, I mean, what could possibly be better than a good, fun, seemingly simple GBA title designed for younger children that would let me relive a critical part of my childhood? The answer it seems is anything and everything.
Developed by Lucky Jump Games and published by The Game Factory, Garfield and his Nine Lives is based on the premise that our somewhat large but cute and hilarious cat has over eaten yet again. As he attempts to fall asleep, his second favorite past-time, his dreams turn into crazy nightmares that he must survive. Players must guide the orange cat through these nightmares and survive, presumably so that he can eat and sleep another day. This sounds perfectly alright to even myself at first, but it doesn't play out quite as well.
I've seen at least two other people pick up the copy I have of this game, play it for five minutes maximum, and set it down to never return. Why? Well, first off we have the difficulty and extremely steep learning curve, even though the controls are simple. The first two levels take exactly that amount of time to complete, without gathering any of the few in-game extras. The third level is what presents the immediate frustration of this title; all of a sudden, gamers are presented with challenges much harder than those found before. The controls start showing their weaknesses at this point; jumping is a little awkward, and Garfield's only attack, a kick that happens very slowly, doesn't cut it when dealing with the enemies and platforming elements found in this level. The fact that there seems to be little story and even less reward for completing levels will discourage almost everyone.
With such simplistic controls, a kick (the B button) and a jump (the A button), a game like this could be executed much better. The player should definitely not be frustrated that the kick or jump doesn't quite work as expected, especially when there are no other options. This problem quickly escalates as the levels become even slightly more complex. The disappointment cannot be expressed in words; Garfield is an icon. The graphics and sound are simple, but do alright considering the nature of the title and the platform, but the gameplay is lacking severely. With only nine levels (hence nine lives), one would expect a little more from a game like this.
In his first outing on the GBA, Garfield does not fare so well. The unfortunate, but maybe saving news in all of this is that most of the Garfield games all around so far have been about the same. However, with a decent, if not great translation into other media, the Garfield franchise deserves much better. I feel for any and all fans; this game does not do this great comic justice. One can only hope that any future outings into electronic entertainment will learn from past mistakes.