"As it turns out, Garfield is something of a wuss. He doesnít have any attack, unless you count the few moments when you must blow into the DS microphone to let out a loud meow. This is good for scaring off pigeons, waking bats or fooling around with empty suits of armor, but it wonít do much against his enemies."
Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties is the story of the prince, a fat cat who lives in the palace, and the pauper (that would be Garfield). When the two meet, Garfield is invited to a royal banquet. First, though, he has to get there. Thatís all youíre doing in the game: making your way to a nice plate of lasagna. To accomplish this noble goal, youíll have to make your way through one of the most substantial DS adventures to date. Oh, and youíll have to see a few load screens.
You read right: load screens. I canít remember the last time I saw one on a cartridge-based game (was it Wipeout 64?), but thatís exactly what youíll be greeted by whenever you load any of the gameís 23 stages. This makes sense for the bulk of them, which are meaty platform sequences in three glorious dimensions (though the game itself is primarily a sidescroller), but there are times when all a stage has you do is move the camera with the stylus as you look at a static canvas. No matter; you get a load screen.
If the load screens are surprising, though, at least theyíre not particularly lengthy. A few seconds pass and then youíre placed within a given stage. Unless itís one of those simple zones where youíre just looking through Garfieldís eyes, then you should expect rather lengthy areas to traverse. The game starts with the plump feline making his way out of the apartment where he is staying and follows his progress down through the streets, through a park, into a sewer of sorts, and finally through palace catacombs. Itís quite the hair-raising adventure and youíll be thankful for every one of the nine lives Garfield possesses. Or should that beÖ hits?
As it turns out, Garfield is something of a wuss. He doesnít have any attack, unless you count the few moments when you must blow into the DS microphone to let out a loud meow. This is good for scaring off pigeons, waking bats or fooling around with empty suits of armor, but it wonít do much against his enemies. These include the afore-mentioned bats, cogs and gears and a few other minor hazards that defy description. The best way to beat them is to avoid them. This usually means doing a lot of fancy jumping and climbing. If Garfield misses and lands in some water, or if an enemy or dangerous object collides with him, then heíll take damage and briefly be impervious to attacks.
Early in the game, itís not difficult to finish the stages without incident. Garfield might slip up once or twice, but since he has nine hits, itís not a big deal. Bottomless pits, cars and boulders barely phase him. Floating ledges and ladders are just part of a typical day. Later in the game, however, that changes. Itís not that Garfield grows weaker. The stages just get cheaper.
Consider some of the very final ventures. They all share one common element: lots of water. Since Garfield doesnít like to get wet, this is an issue. In one creative stage, heíll have to advance while the water level rises and falls. If he starts forward and thereís not enough time, the liquid will come up from beneath and take away one hit from his life meter. But guess what? Garfield might not be anywhere near dry land. So as he skids across the water, his invincibility expires and he suffers another hit. . . and another, and another.
The game capitalizes on this issue to its advantage and your probable frustration. Some stages force you to make leaps of faith, and you may very well land in a pool of water. Generally, you take just the one hit and move on, but such cheap tactics really shouldíve been avoided by whoever designed the levels. It gets to the point where youíll have to try most of the later areas twice. The first time you get a feel for where the traps are and the second time you blaze through, avoiding most of them and working toward that ever-elusive stage exit.
At least, you should blaze through. Sometimes thatís not how it works, though. For example, one stage finds you scaling a massive tree. As you work your way around it and branches allow you to jump ever higher, youíll find that footing is often precarious. Misjudge a leap even slightly and you might miss the perch, then plummet downward toward the ground far below. Garfield doesnít take any damage even if he falls down to the bottom of the stage, but do you really want to go through all those leaps all over again? Whether you want to or not, thatís exactly what youíll have to do.
Right now, it probably sounds like I hate the game. Iíve been harping on its negative aspects for quite awhile. Still, despite all of my complaints, I was actually surprised by how worthwhile a game Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties really is. For starters, itís not the sort of thing youíll complete in a half-hour. As mentioned above, stages are quite lengthy. Most of them will take a few minutes to complete, even if you know what youíre doing. The developers also extended the play value by hiding snack food throughout.
In each stage, Garfield can collect a set number of goodies. The top half of the screen counts down what you still need to find, so youíll often find yourself struggling between heading to the exit or retracing your steps to find that last milkshake or hotdog or whatever else you notice you didnít collect. And since you can replay any stage whenever you like, the completionist inside of you wonít likely rest until youíve got everything. Even when you finish the game, the final screen will remind you that you still have some food to gather.
Another thing I liked was the gameís visual design. Even though youíre basically playing a sidescroller, you often feel like youíre exploring a three-dimensional world thanks to branching paths and other such tricks. Sometimes youíll get to grind your way down through a zone like a skateboarder or a spikey-haired marsupial. The environment whips by and things look downright good. Except for the occasional blind jump, itís easy to see exactly where you should go at all times. Whoever handled the visual direction truly ought to be commended.
What all of that ultimately means is that Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties is just what the rating Iím giving it would suggest: a good game that makes optimal use of its license and rather thin plot. Itís not going to shatter any genre conventions and there certainly are better platformers available, but those donít star Garfield. If you like the overweight cat and youíve been looking for another decent platformer, you just found it. Simple. Just the way Garfield would like itÖ
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 23, 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.
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