"So, suppose you get almost to the end of the stage and you just canít seem to get in a good position to kick that squirrel. He throws one acorn to many or a bird dive bombs you when youíre not expecting it and you take one hit more than your stamina can withstand. Garfield collapses to the ground and goes to sleep. Thatís about as violent as the game ever gets, and what it really means in gamer terms is that youíve just lost a life."
Perhaps it shouldnít come as a surprise that Garfield and his Nine Lives isnít likely to ever make anyoneís Top 10 list. Licensed games rarely do. Still, I had pretty high hopes for it when I plugged it into my handheld and started what was to be a quick romp through its nine stages. After all, Garfield can be a lot of fun just about however you choose to experience him (with the obvious exception of any of his comics from the last 10 years). Long story short: I should have known better.
Itís not that this is a bad game. Iíve played many that are worse, and so have a lot of the kids this is obviously targeted toward. In some ways, Garfield and his Nine Lives is almost the ideal licensed game. Only. . . not quite. There are a few things that get in the way, minor issues that mar the experience for any gamer aged 4 to 40.
The first of these is Garfieldís primary method of attack, which definitely takes some getting used to. He doesnít throw objects or bop people on the head. Instead, he kicks them. Itís the type of attack thatís only good at close range, and thatís one of the problems. Some levels find you fighting enemies that are long range specialists. This is most irritatingly true in the fifth stage, which finds Garfield ďup a tree.Ē
In that level, your goal is to free Garfieldís friend from where heís stuck in some branches high above the grassy turf where you begin. This requires you to hop up various branches and over spiked pits while avoiding attacks from birds and squirrels. The latter scamper merrily about the various platforms and pause only briefly to hurl acorns your way. To mount a successful attack, youíll need to jump the projectiles and then get in close with your kick. This is fairly difficult, as Garfield isnít the best of jumpers (thereís a delay to his actions that will haunt you right up to the final boss encounter). To make matters worse, some branches will crumble under your weight, meaning you have to approach several times if you make a mistake. This can quickly deplete your lasagna-shaped life meter.
So, suppose you get almost to the end of the stage and you just canít seem to get in a good position to kick that squirrel. He throws one acorn to many or a bird dive bombs you when youíre not expecting it and you take one hit more than your stamina can withstand. Garfield collapses to the ground and goes to sleep. Thatís about as violent as the game ever gets, and what it really means in gamer terms is that youíve just lost a life.
Rather than start you from a checkpoint, though, the game places you back to the very start of the stage (unless you manage to reach a boss, in which case you get to continue from that point until you beat him or your supply of retries has been exhausted). None of them are particularly long, so you should be able to get through all of them without dying, but itís still sort of stupid that you have to do it all over again. Worse, any items you collectedóthere are 100 in each stageódisappear from your grasp. You get to collect them all over again! That doesnít really matter in the grand scheme of things, unless youíre a compulsive collector. Then it will drive you crazy.
I mentioned bosses, of which there are three. These guys are where your secondary attack comes in handy. That move is a dash, which you accomplish by tapping the direction that you wish to run, or by holding ĎLí or ĎR.í Garfield can only run short spurts that are just barely enough to do some damage to his foes (within stages, the same move is sometimes used to break through barriers and find hidden supplies). Each encounter with a villain goes down differently, so the developers should be praised for that. The first guy you must battle with trampolines nearby, the second while avoiding dangerous roll attacks and the final encounter actually requires some simple pattern memorization required if you stand any chance of winning at all. Consider these showdowns a highlight, though I would have liked to see one at the end of each stage.
Another highlight is the way Garfield and his Nine Lives makes a perfectly reasonable attempt to capture the feel of its license. Garfield has apparently had too many sweets, as his sleep is riddled by nightmares. Each of the nine stages you encounter are the manifestation of his darkest fears, which explains nicely how you find yourself facing off against Odie clones, alley cats and various mongrels at the obedience school. The whole time, the game is presented with pretty good style. Garfield looks hilarious when he belly flops down shafts in one level, and itís difficult to argue that any of what youíll encounter here is out of character.
Perhaps the biggest flaw I havenít yet discussed in depth is the gameís overall length. As mentioned, each of the nine stages are fairly short, requiring an experienced player only a few minutes to conquer. Thereís the option to go back through and try to collect all 100 items within each stage, but your counterís tendency to reset if you mess up and die is quite discouraging and none of the levels are so magnificently crafted that youíll want to enjoy them repeatedly. There are three difficulty levels so that you can push yourself if you really want to, but the fact of the matter is that this is still an hour-long game. If you have a huge Garfield freak in your household (maybe itís even you), or if you can find it for a song, pick up Garfield and his Nine Lives. You could certainly do worse. Just donít consider it under any other circumstances.
Staff review by Jason Venter (August 17, 2006)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
If you enjoyed this Garfield and His Nine Lives review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!