The games media thrives on big news about bigger releases, with hype often surpassing the actual merit of a game. But what some journalists forget is that the industry marches on, day by day, from the profits of small, budget titles based on enduring licenses. Game Factory’s newest GBA release, Garfield and his Nine Lives, is such a game. It’s not flashy or big by any standards, but it does what it promises and that’s rare in the industry these days.
Garfield is your standard 2D platformer, following in a long tradition of handheld titles. Basically, Garfield has eaten too much and the result is a series of bad dreams, represented as levels. Controls are simple and easy to pick up, utilizing the jump-attack combo that has stood the test of time. Some extra moves are included for the gluttonous feline, such as a shoulder charge and a butt-stomp. We’ve seen these moves before, but it’s nice to get a little more to work with, especially because they help in uncovering secrets.
The levels themselves are fairly linear, progressing from left to right, but there is some amount of exploration to them. Hidden tunnels and rooms are scattered throughout for more intrepid players, and seeking them out is necessary for collecting all of the pickups. Each level has its own staple collectible, such as coffee mugs, but also includes a hidden Pooky Bear and lasagna for when Garfield is running low on health. Locating these extras makes the levels a little more entertaining and gets a perfect score.
My only real problem with the gameplay is Garfield’s offensive moves. He can kick enemies out of the way but must be stationary to do so. Using an elbow charge works well, but requires space. This can be frustrating when a foe is perched upon a small platform, and pelts Garfield with a projectile whenever he lands. It doesn’t ruin the gameplay, but may prove annoying to younger gamers.
On the graphics side, Garfield is on par with most of the titles in this genre. Animations are smooth and crisp, with high pixel sprites and colorful backgrounds. Garfield himself has some humorous moves and expressions that are appropriate for the classic comic strip character. Enemies are a bit jerky at times, but the overall appeal of the levels and the endearing atmosphere make up for any flaws.
Music fits each scene and is muted enough so that it didn’t get on my nerves. Sound effects are typical of a cartoon—bonks, banana slips, springs and crashes. It’s just a shame there aren’t any voice samples from the old cartoon or the movies.
I’d definitely recommend Garfield and his Nine Lives to any parent looking for a kid friendly game. It’s sure to make those long car trips easier, and offers just enough challenge to keep today’s gaming-savvy young ones occupied. For older gamers it’s something we’ve seen so many times before, but might offer an amusing distraction. The in-game save system makes marking progress simple, and thankfully there is no cumbersome password scheme. Any child will be able to work this game if they can use their Game Boy Advance. Garfield hits his audience right on the mark, and Game Factory has contributed another small treat for his younger fans.