Review by Arkrex
"Proving that cats always land on their feet"
This is arguably one of the best DS platforming game of the year. No I'm not insane, far from it. I have played New Super Mario Bros. (the so-called benchmark) and all the rest of them; they are good games in many ways, but there's nothing truly special about them that makes you want to really keep going, jumping and landing on your feet.
Surprise surprise! Not only is this a movie tie-in (of which I'm amazed a sequel was actually produced..), but behind the simple presentation and graphics is a beast of an adventure-platformer, the likes of which should be feared by even the most daring adventurers Lara & the Prince!
This is the aspect I usually comment on first, and in Garfield's case the 3D graphics aren't of the best quality that the DS has been shown capable of. There is a nice variety of textures, but they do appear blocky at times. The colour scheme for the most part does show an element of realism though. The framerate is stable, but kinda slow; I guess moving all those polys limits the DS' engine. But my oh my, some of the effects, most evident in chase sequences with lots of zoom and panning, are a sight to see - just wait til you perform that insane jump!
There is a nice variety of tracks although I'm unsure if any are from the actual movie. Regardless of that, they are very fitting to the scenery and the many scenarios we'll find our phat cat in. Some of the tracks in the later levels are very exciting and even sound like the quality we'd typically find in a Final Fantasy or Castlevania title! Sound effects are, how should I say, barely minimal. But for what's there, the aural certainly does a more than decent job contributing to the overall game.
Garfield 2 is a 2D-platformer presented with 3D graphics. Imagine the Playstation's Klonoa or Crash Bandicoot if you will. For the most part you are just moving left or right, sometimes you can change the axis of your movement (using the stylus at certain cues) to allow for small deviations of main routes. This may seem like a gimmick, but it's implemented rather well: it's quite easy to use and some levels (including the best hedgemaze level I've seen!) require it.
The core focus is jumping on platforms. Control is very important in any game where precision movements are required, and although it may seem a bit floaty initially, Garfield can move around like the best of them. And that's a very good thing, since there is a lot of leaping required. It never gets boring though. Lateral thinking is required at times to choose the best method of reaching your goal. Compounded to that, sometimes you have to make quick decisions due to impending dangers such as water pits, rolling spikes and assorted creatures. The first few levels are the standard affair, but it really does get much better later on with Garfield displaying agile skills in the face of constant danger. Later segments remind me of the Prince of Persia trilogy and Tomb Raider Legend. There is clear inspiration from these adventures as well as good ol' Mario; there's even a few levels where you'll have to race through as you're being chased. Ah the going does indeed get tough for this cat!
I won't delve too much into what you go through lest I spoil it, but trust me, this game will throw a lot of variety and a decent challenge at you, with plenty of surprising thrills to boot.
Now onto some not too good points: Garfield starts out each level with 9 nine lives, which is more than enough initially, but the going can get rough towards the end. Should you lose, you'll have to restart the level from the very beginning; there are no checkpoints! Imo, this is a minor quibble though. The levels aren't too long, repetition makes you improve, but for those that aren't nimble enough quite yet, it may make for a frustrating experience. The only other letdown I see here is the lack of replay value/unlockables. The presentation is very lite with only the main game and time trials unlocked as you progress. There are a handful of very brief search levels in the style of Where's Waldo' and I feel this could've been further developed. And there are 18 main game levels, with lots of variety between them, but I can't help feeling it could've been a bit longer, even by artificial means (ie. by having some difficulty levels). Loading times can be longer than we'd like from a DS card, but I can live with it given the quality of what the system loads.
The controls in the game are very simple. D-pad for movement, a jump and walk button, stylus used to change Garfield's walking axis at key points. In Garfield vision mode (used sparingly) you can use the stylus to direct where you/he wants to look at for clues. The mic is only used a few times and is only there as a novelty really. Apart from that, the top screen displays your collected food (getting them all probably nets you something good..) and that's it really. Very simple, very effective.
I picked up this game only since it spurred my curiosity by having a Europe release before US. I'm very glad that even by the strangest of means I got to experience this beaut. I was surprised that the game played pretty decent with solid mechanics underlying above average level design. But I was amazed at how the quality kept rising and rising the more I made progress. Garfield owes a lot to modern adventure-platform titles, but it does serve great justice. Though it may not have the bells and whistles we have come to expect of contemporaries, there is plenty of charm in an entertaining platformer which always keeps you on your toes.
Garfield 2 is a must-play for all DS owners, even if you don't like Garfield (since there's no story moving you along too!) May the next effort by Two Tribes bring more goodness, without the attached movie-license; perhaps more levels, better presentation, bonus games, etc. We have a delicious cake here, it's just without that extra icing on top.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/28/06, Updated 10/08/07
Game Release: Garfield 2 (EU, 08/25/06)
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