Review: Garfield’s Fun Fest (Nintendo DS)

Garfield’s Fun Fest
Pubisher: DSI Games
Developer: Black Lantern
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 8/29/08


Garfield used to be one of my favorite things as a kid. I would spend hours pouring over my father’s Garfield comics, giggling at every “I hate Mondays” and every kicking of Odie off the kitchen table. Over time, I’ve grown out of touch with the lazy cat’s misadventures, so I was more than willing to grab this game and review it.

Now I’ve never heard of a particularly good Garfield game being created. This being the case, I was equally apprehensive and hopeful that this game would turn out great, despite the horrible name that is Garfield’s Fun Fest.

So, will my inner child go giddy over a great game with everyone’s favorite feline, or will it be deflated worse than when I found out Santa Claus was a big fat lie?

Story

GFF is actually a movie tie-in game. The movie was a straight to DVD released computer animation flick. In the game and movie, Garfield is getting set to be the MC at, you guess it, Fun Fest. Fun Fest is a talent show where various pets get together and put on a show, with an overall winner being presented with a trophy. Apparently, Garfield is the show’s star, winning several past events. He’s all set to do his comedy act with his girlfriend, Arlene, until she drops a bomb on him. She doesn’t want to do a comedy act. She wants to perform a dancing routine. When Garfield ignores her, she turns to Ramone, the handsome Latin cat. Shaken by this, Garfield discovers he’s lost his sense of humor. The game centers on him and Odie seeking out the mystical Funny Pond, where he will drink the water and restore his sense of humor in time to go back and win the talent show.

The story is told through a few screens of dialogue accompanied by shots from the movie. You’ll generally get a few of these every couple of levels, and they get the job done. Unfortunately, there is NO characterization here at all. You come across several characters, but you generally just find an item for them and move on. For instance, I met a bear in the woods who wanted me to find his missing playing cards in exchange for a hint as to what direction to take. I have no idea why a bear needed playing cards. The game didn’t seem to think that was useful information. Thus, I stopped caring what happened in the plot and just trekked on to finish it.

My biggest pet peeve, if you’ll pardon the pun, is that Garfield was at one time considered funny by the audience of the Fun Fest. Anyone who’s ever read the comic strip or watched the old TV show knows that Garfield’s jokes are horrible and often lead to people throwing boots at him. Its one of the longest running gags in the strip! Such blatant disrespect for a licensed character’s personality traits is shameful. It felt almost as bad as watch X-Men: The Last Stand.

You’ve got the standard story mode and the ability to replay any level you’ve completed. Apart from that, you can view the credits if you want. There are no mini-games, multiplayer, or alternate modes to be found.

Graphics
This is my favorite part of the game. The movie might have gaudy 3D computer generated graphics, but the game uses the comic strip as a reference. As such, every level is full of color and the characters look great, even if they don’t have too many animations.

Fans of the strip will be very pleased with how it all looks, from Garfield hiding in his bed to Odie’s slobbering tongue blasting everything in sight. I don’t have a complaint here.

Audio

The music is light, fun, and entirely forgettable. The exception would be during the rhythm mini-game, where the gameplay and music combine their efforts to give a satisfying experience.

The sound effects are pretty standard. You’ve got a scaring down food sound, an alarm clock sound, and cat screeching as your primary effects. Some of the enemies make a few sounds themselves, and these never change as well.

The whole aural experience manages to never be offensive, but also completely unremarkable.

Gameplay

You might be expecting me to start tearing the game a new one here. You couldn’t be more wrong. The game is shockingly solid, but like the audio, unremarkable.

The game is broken up into four different play types. You’ve got exploration levels, racing levels, performing levels, and a couple that utilize a hang glider.

Exploration levels involve you and Odie running around looking for a few items before taking them to the end. You’re given an energy meter that steadily decreases as you move and take hits. You’ll need to restore this by finding and eating various foods such as cookies, pizza, and lasagna. (What would Garfield be without lasagna?) If you run out of energy, Garfield will go to sleep and you’ll take control of Odie. As Odie, you’ll have to find an alarm clock and wake Garfield up. If you don’t get back in time, you fail the mission. The levels are mostly platforming and exploration, but there is some combat. You’ll be able to swat at enemies to make them disappear. Small enemies like spiders and flies take one hit. Dogs and mailmen take more. (I would like to note that the enemy choices are PERFECT for keeping with the show’s aesthetic.) If you get hit, you lose a chunk of energy, and you’ll be treated to an animation where some of the cat’s fur flies off. The jumping controls can be a little loose, but beyond that, everything works like it should.

Racing and hang gliding levels are simple affairs where you have to reach the end of the level without running out of energy. You run across the level while jumping to avoid obstacles and trying to collect food and little balloons that give you a trophy if you collect all the balloons in all the racing levels. It works as it should.

Finally, the performing levels are the most interesting aspect of the gameplay. You’ll utilize the stylus here. You’ll have three cue cards on each side of the touch screen. Your job will be to touch these cue cards when stars that come from the center of the screen pass through them in time to the music. It reminds me of a simpler Elite Beat Agents. You’ll be awarded points if you hit the note on time, but a miss will lower the audience’s enjoyment of the performance. If it gets too low, you get booed of the stage and have to try again. Thankfully, the touch screen controls work to perfection here and the tapping of the rhythm ends up being fun, if not too complex. You won’t get bored with this.

The game isn’t great, but it can be fun if you let yourself get into it. The problems come in the next section.

Replayability
I though this was going to be a short game from the moment I saw it. I was off by a lot. Playing through every level took me 32 minutes. The game is barely half an hour long! That’s not even a full episode of House!

The game offers you the chance to go back and replay any level you want to find all the collectibles in order to unlock trophies. This isn’t worth it in most games, but you might as well give it a try here because if you don’t you will NOT get your money’s worth. A game this short in today’s world is completely inexcusable. The game is merely decent to begin with, but this is a deal breaker if I ever saw one. There aren’t even multiple difficulties!

Balance

The real trick comes in figuring out when to eat the food. You can save it for later in case you have to backtrack or just scarf it down as you go and hope for the best. Beyond that, the game is a cakewalk. Enemies are easily swatted down, and obstacles don’t take enough energy away to matter. Food is everywhere, and you have to wonder if a bakery truck broke down or something.

You might lose once or twice, but since each level is two minutes long, you won’t mind replaying them.

Originality

Garfield’s Fun Fest is pretty much like any other 2D platformer you’ve ever played. The closest thing to unique is the rhythm sections, but we’ve gotten so many of these with the advent of the DS, than I can’t reasonably give it any points for that.

Beyond that, GFF is a licensed game, plain and simple. Nothing new here.

Addictiveness

I can’t really judge this. The game is so short, I can’t tell if I was addicted to it or not.

I guess I have to give it a low score here for that alone.

Appeal Factor

Garfield’s popularity has taken a hit over the years. Thanks to the growing fear of children becoming obese, an indulgent cat isn’t exactly everyone’s up of tea anymore. As a movie tie-in, there are some more problems. The movie is a direct to DVD release. Most people won’t have heard of it, meaning the game will probably just sit on the shelf because no one knows its there.

If you wanted to get this for your kid, it would be a safe buy. It’s perfectly harmless. Just don’t expect them to be entertained for long.

Miscellaneous

It took longer to write this review than it did to finish the game.

The Scores

Story – Below Average
Graphics – Great
Audio – Mediocre
Gameplay – Enjoyable
Replayability – Worthless
Balance – Poor
Originality – Very Bad
Addictiveness – Worthless
Appeal Factor – Mediocre
Miscellaneous – Worthless

Final Score: Poor Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

A good game will shine through regardless of length. Sadly, Garfield’s Fun Fest isn’t good enough to look over the pitiful length. Even the most diehard Garfield fan won’t get his or her monies worth here. Unless you’ve got a ton of money to burn, you’re better off just getting something else. It is such a shame too. There is a fun game in here, but it just doesn’t justify how little it lasts.

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