Garfield's A Tail of Two Kitties (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
Back in the 1980's Garfield was in almost every daily newspaper you could get your hands on. Teenagers had posters of the overweight, lasagna-loving feline on their walls and the books sold millions of copies. Then a rather average cartoon version was produced stateside and it all went a little quiet. It wasn't that he was no longer popular; it's just that things have a habit of moving on. Fast forward to 2004 and it appeared that everyone's favorite cat had discovered a new stage: the big screen. In fact the first movie went on to make $200 million worldwide and become one of the top 25 highest grossing movies of that year. Clearly a sequel was going to happen and this year saw the inventively titled Garfield 2: A Tale of Two Kitties and, for the first time, this DS outing. We already know that developers Two Tribes have decided to travel down the safer platform route but have they managed to inject anything new into this tired genre?
The object of Garfield 2 is to get to the prince's castle. You see, while relaxing in your hotel, you've received a letter inviting you to dinner for your favorite meal: Lasagna. What follows is a journey where anything and everything seems to be out to stop your reaching your goal. It is split into handy levels with the game saving after each one is completed. While the longer ones include checkpoints, others are so short they are really not required. The first of these is the 'surveillance' mission and it's here where you look through Garfield's eyes in order to locate an object. Exactly what you have to find is simple, as the text beforehand has usually given you valuable clues. Find it, and it's off to level two. This is where the gaming really begins, as now you not only have to negotiate a hostile 3D landscape but you are also encouraged to collect food to keep Garfield happy. This is not essential to finish the game but it's the only way to get 100 percent completion. There is generally a fixed route but you may have to stop to avoid cars and pigeons, which will sap one of your nine lives. There are variations on the theme such as you climbing up a tree that you must rotate around in order to progress, which is very reminiscent of the 80's classic Nebulus. Another has the same thing only in reverse (i.e. in a tube) and with the water level quickly rising. Finally there's the bus level and while this does include some of the 3D platforming elements it's actually an exercise in map reading. This is down to the fact that all routes are color-coded and only by constantly referring to the map will you eventually reach your destination. This is one of the most original gameplay aspects I have seen for some time and it's a shame that the developers didn't take this aspect further.
Because of the fixed path design this really is a case of left, right and jump. You will have to change paths at given points in the game but the linear structure doesn't really stretch your arcade reflexes. On the other hand there are some areas that require you to speed up your interaction and thankfully the controls seem to do well under the pressure.
Visually Garfield 2 runs quite a solid 3D engine although as it is on a fixed path this means much less strain on the DS's processor with the developers never adding details they don't really need to. Get on the rooftops, for example, and the bottoms of the buildings are shrouded in cloud, which either makes for a very foggy day or incredibly tall buildings. The animation of Garfield is also pretty good but with very few enemies to speak of this is all the developers had to really concentrate on.
Sound & Music: Rather generic and upbeat soundtrack which will no doubt please younger gamers and enough sound effects to convince you that you are actually a cat including 'meow'.
The developers have at least attempted some use of the DS's unique features and the underused microphone even gets a road test. As far as the touch screen goes, your stylus will be called upon on a number of occasions to control Garfield's viewpoint when looking for items. It's not much but at least it's something. As you'd expect the microphone activates Garfield's 'voice', which allows you to scare things like birds or even bats. Again this is hardly original but it's still nice to see developers actually thinking about these features even if they're not actually pushing them in new and creative directions.
In the end Garfield 2 turns out to be no different to the majority of movie tie-ins but unusually this isn't due to sloppy programming or rushed visuals but rather a whole host of missed opportunities by the developers. For starters your only real replay value is to either collect all the food or beat your best time where there should have been considerable scope for 'educational' mini-games. Finding the correct bus route whilst reading the maps, for instance, could have been expanded, as could the finding objects through Garfield's view. As a result the game is over in no time at all and while it's fun while it lasts, at the full price, it really only warrants an overnight rental.
Pro: Fun While it Lasts.
Con: No Real Replay Value, Not Very Original.
Final score: 4.7